I think it was the animated movie “Up” that first introduced the “squirrel!” distraction. In the middle of conversations between the talking dog and the old man, someone says “squirrel!” and the dog’s head swivels and he loses his train of concentration.
The lesson, evidently, is that you can teach a dog to talk but his fascination with squirrels can always de-rail the conversation.
We Americans are a lot like that dog, which is to say, easily distracted.
Were we talking about health care policy? Ebola!! We’re all going to die!! (Okay, so Ebola isn’t easy to catch, and–as my favorite internet snark put it–more Americans have been married to Kim Kardasian that have contracted Ebola, but scaring the shit out of people is so much more fun than policy. Squirrel!!)
Were we talking about the role processed foods, sugar and factory farms play in America’s obesity epidemic? OMG, GMOs!! (Okay, so we’ve altered the genes of plants–created hybrids– for over a thousand years. But if we terrify people about Frankenfoods, maybe they won’t focus on truly dangerous practices like using hormones and antibiotics to bulk up the animals we eat, or overuse of pesticides and herbicides. Squirrel!!)
Were we talking about the environment, and policies to encourage clean energy production and reduce carbon emissions? Solyndra!! (Okay, so one green energy company got government subsidies and went bankrupt. But we don’t want to bore people by going on and on about the massive subsidies taxpayers provide to highly profitable fossil-fuel companies like Exxon and Koch Industries, or about what we need to do to shift the country to greener policies. Squirrel!!)
Were we talking about dysfunction in Congress? Obama’s a Muslim!
Were we talking about 30,000+ gun deaths in the U.S. each year? Ebola!!
Whoops–I guess that’s where I came in…