Negativity is never having to say you're sorry
Expanded from the 1-22-2006 Daily Sparks (Nev.) Tribune

     "As to the people, they have no understanding, and only repeat what their rulers are pleased to tell them."
– Plato

Nowadays, unless you're the president, the slightest mispronunciation or stumble gets you horse-laughed out of town. Small-minded media types love contradictions: You said this in 1978, now you're saying something different. Tim Russert has made a career of gotcha television, and he's one of the more enlightened poseurs plaguing the public platform of the body politic.

Contradictions constitute an easy kill for the lazy. They take little research. Two statements seemingly at odds with each other pander to the popular prejudice that anyone with power (defined as any lout worthy of a TV interview) is a lying, hypocritical scumbag.

Lush Rambo. Pat Robertson. Al Franken. Bill O'Reilly. All entertain via the dark arts of the jeer, the trash and the gotcha.

Wiseman George Carlin probably has it right by refusing to vote. After the last two presidential elections, who can argue with him? The U.N. wanted to send international monitors to watch over our 2004 balloting but Dubya would have none of it. How dumb do you have to be to play a rigged game? (No profit figures from the gambling industry, please.)

With cynicism and apathy both peaking at the same time, what can those who aspire to power do? How can those pre-judged as hypocritical by the cynical turn affliction to advantage? Can an accursed seaman with a dead albatross around his neck regain popularity with his crewmates? Back in the days of Moby Dick, no. Nowadays, all it takes is a good PR firm and plenty of media exposure.

So what's going to be the hot setup for spotlight seekers this year? How about turning your biggest weakness into a sellable asset. Herewith, some of the smartest practitioners of the newly emerging art of the negative sell.

THE WAGES OF OSCAR. Just get famous and the money will come to you. All that matters is creating buzz. The process is very egalitarian: Today, the likes of Charles Manson or Mother Theresa can get book deals and TV offers.

The undefeated Nevada champion of the negative sell is Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman. The longtime mob lawyer, who has yet to repudiate all of his past associations, is beloved in Gomorrah South and taken seriously as a potential governor or U.S. senator.

Sir Oscar's dumbass proclivities are legion and legendary. Doing an endorsement deal with Bombay Gin. Advocating removal of the thumbs of graffiti vandals. Although Tony "The Ant" Spilotro would be proud, Hizzoner might want to re-think going digital. Downtown LV looks so shabby that turning alfresco artists loose would be an improvement. If Oscar wants to be a true leader, he can buy a few cases of spray paint and tell the boys to show 'em we've got culture. Even Michelangelo had to start someplace.

I think Oscar took to heart a long-ago commentary by the great Chicago columnist Mike Royko who suggested that the Windy City could reverse its tourist slump by promoting the mob. Time was that Vegas shunned its ancestry. When an enterprising radio manager announced that she would change the call letters of the venerable KENO radio to KMOB, it caused an international sensation and a local furor. The manager backed down, but scored some serious publicity, which is the goal of all this.

The current Miss Nevada has apparently seen how far acting stupid has taken Mayor Goodman and Paris Hilton.

Responding to a question, Crystal Wosik (I love that name) stated that nuclear waste has to go someplace and Yucca Mountain is the best-built facility in the country. In one terse comment, she proved that, like the president, you don't have to read newspapers to be successful.

But Ms. Woozy wasn't done. Reminded that people could die, she said "we just have to take one for team."

Elaine May, call your office. Your successor has arrived. In the screenplay for "The Bird Cage", the master comic actress and writer penned "let the mother go down with the ship" as the most outrageous position on abortion ever written. Ms. May may now retire. Crystal has shattered the glass ceiling of world class ditzyness. Like Oscar, she's freakin' serious and the great unwashed love it.

Plato was right.

TWO CENTS WORTH. Longtime Assemblyman John Marvel, R-Battle Mountain, is seeking another term. Although 2001 reapportionment saddled him with a huge district sprawling from eastern Sparks to north central Nevada, he has survived two elections. Firefighter and Sparks resident Mike Sprinkle wants Marvel's job and has come up with the most cost efficient campaign gimmick of the young political season.

Sprinkle sent out a fund raising solicitation last week. A postage-page envelope was included with a 37-cent stamp thereon — two cents short of the new first class rate. I don't know if Mr. Sprinkel placed 39 cents on the rest of his mailers, but mine was two pennies short. And the minus two cents got his name into the Sunday paper. That's cost efficient campaigning.

HARRY THE FOX. U.S. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., scores the final entry in this list of negative spinmeisters. Last week came a Reid apology to 33 of his Republican colleagues for an earlier blistering attack on GOP corruption. The original trashing scored the front page of just about every paper in the country. The Reno Gazette-Journal ran the apology on page five.

Senator, next time you're at Las Vegas City Hall, drop in on Mayor Goodman. You can raise your glass of tonic to his gin and gently gloat about having your cake and eating it, too.

What kind of cake goes with gin and tonic?

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Copyright © 1982-2006-2012 Andrew Barbano

Andrew Barbano is a 43-year Nevadan, editor of and; and former chair of the City of Reno's Citizens Cable Compliance Committee, He is producer of Nevada's annual César Chávez Day celebration and serves as first vice-president, political action chair and webmaster of the Reno-Sparks NAACP. As always, his opinions are strictly his own. E-mail

Barbwire by Barbano premiered in the Daily Sparks (Nev.) Tribune on Aug. 12, 1988, and has originated in those parts ever since. Tempus fugit.

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