Arts & Culture

The Ira Glass Infatuation Post/This American Life Roundup: Crybabies

"Any fool can criticize, condemn and complain and most fools do," said Ben Franklin back in the day. This week’s This American Life is all about those Crybabies who use self-pity like a teenager uses Facebook blindly on a social … Read More

By / September 29, 2010

"Any fool can criticize, condemn and complain and most fools do," said Ben Franklin back in the day. This week’s This American Life is all about those Crybabies who use self-pity like a teenager uses Facebook blindly on a social suicide rampage. In a moment of Freakonomics statistical clarity, Ira and’s Dave Weigel identify the allstar whiny pros in the capitalist game that matters most, where money meets votes: "The Republicans, meanwhile, are not only better at attacking; when they’re attacked, they do a better job flipping the script and turning the story into outrage over the unfairness of how they were attacked, turning that into support and money." Of course it’s no surprise–it’s what’s responsible for the most aneurisms of democrats in bed unable to lose themselves with all the Greers screaming mea culpa all night long. Let’s get on with the show.


Act 1: They are being scapegoated by the federal government

"I conceive that the great part of the miseries of mankind are brought upon them by false estimates they have made of the value of things." -B. Franklin

Think Main Street got hosed the worst? Not if you’re a trader. Feeling bent over by the Obama administration, Wallstreet feels just about the same amount of self-pity as Unemployed Joe Shmo. After bailouts, contracts, packages and rescue initiatives, Ira is compelled to ask, "So how much whining and complaining are Wallstreet guys doing about the federal government now?" A lot. Expert Wallstreet mediaman Adam Davidson has seen a lot of the self-pity gushers who broke even in a broken system.

Trying to sort it all out, Ira questions, "What about the work-a-day people [on Wallstreet]…are they whining about the Obama administration? Are they grateful for the federal government and all us taxpayers saving their asses?"

Davidson recognizes a lack of self-reflection and critical thought as symptoms of the blamers. But this is This American Life, and we’re hands on. And where better to get your paws on some action then at the skeezy bar full of slicked back, hot-pocketed moneymakers?

Barhopping across the street from the NYSE, without the usual golddigging intent of picking up some flashy bulls, Davidson smooth talks the husslas to deconstruct their self-pity.

When it is suggested that they benefited from the bailout, a group of traders yell, "You’re crazy!" Then why are they still employed? "Because I’m smarter than the average American," says one dude, "95% of the population doesn’t have that kind of sense." Survival of the fittest, he says.

That’s a hot number I’ve heard before: 

Davidson identifies that they are assuming a pure free market. "I dont think that could be defended by a careful study." Fresh meat for you here, Levitt.


Act 2: Let’s say you’re Michael Jordan. Yeah let’s say that.

"How few there are who have courage enough to own their faults, or resolution enough to mend them." -B. Franklin

The flop. Never a good thing. It has thousands of us screaming "get up already!" in post-NYSE bar whiskey-and-coke impotente hazes, on the playing fields, and newly on the basketball court. Not just a phenomenon of the World Cup crybabies anymore, bball players are trying to sell the refs the wavering fact that they were fouled when, in instant replay, it is revealed otherwise. (They say there’s no instant replay in soccer, but if only that were the case for Beckham today)  Alex Blumberg is resident expert on the flopping phenom. "This sport is morphing into soccer," he says. The culprit? Could be the Europeans. His theory pegs Vlade Divac, Serbian hottie who brought on the Euro soccer dirt flowing like hard water in his Red Star veins. Another take? "The problem with the flop is, you know it’s a lie," says Tommy Craigs, sportswriter of Deadspin, who blames "bad regulation with unintended effects," creating flopping culture, not the other way around. Returning again to Levitt, though, when the incentives are there, there’s no stopping a hustle.

Faking it is such dirty play. And why is it so much to ask someone to perform like they presented they were capable of? We only employ alpha players who are working with something to speak of, so to speak. I want to be impressed. Entertained. I want to see your best performance. And if you can’t deliver, get off the field.

After all the rationalizing, Ira asks, "Can you imagine Michael Jordan flopping?" Alex Bloomberg: "No. there would be no dignity in it."


Act 3: California law allows for this kind of thing.

ADA is on fire, as presented by Alex MacInnis. Crybaby on wheels does not cease to sue. It’s the AMERICAN Disabilities Act, after all, as patriotic as Yellow #5.

These crybabies seem to adopt a loyalty to a totally different system than they signed up for. Traders no longer expect that loss is a very good possibility, players forget our sheer amazement with their natural abilities and fake us out, and as one store owner put it, who was being sued for the height of his bathroom’s mirrors out of the blue, "I just think it’s really shady that someone that’s using their disability to sue other people." It’s no reason to get angry, their motivation is simple. It’s the same reason Borat’s sister hangs with the boys– "Because she likes to make the money."


Act 4: Silently recalling one about a prostitute and a dead rat, he chuckled. 

According to a fatally optimistic mouse in Sedaris’ new fable, limericks save lives. So here’s your damn kale:

Sedaris was speaking on airwaves

Of the road negativity paves.

Still the dodos rein,

And the lovers fein,

Friends, it’s no matter how one behaves.

Also, another reason I think of Ira Glass whenever I see a banana: last Sunday, he was the appetizingly ripe shade of yellow as he guest starred on the Simpsons, having us all Groening for Ira.