Pool Tables And Gas Stoves

Sometimes, we need to remind ourselves that drumming up fear to achieve less-than-admirable ends is nothing new.

I was on the treadmill the other day, listening to old show tunes on my iPods. ( My very unsophisticated musical tastes run to Dean Martin and the Rat Pack, although I make exceptions, especially for show tunes.) I was speed-walking to the Music Man. 

“Ya Got Trouble” was the song sung by Professor Harold Hill when he is using the fact that a pool hall has opened in River City to stoke fear in the city’s residents.

You probably remember:

Friends, let me tell you what I mean. You got one, two, three, four, five, six pockets in a table. Pockets that mark the diff’rence Between a gentlemen and a bum, With a capital “B,” And that rhymes with “P” and that stands for pool! And all week long your River City Youth’ll be frittering away, I say your young men’ll be frittering! Frittering away their noontime, suppertime, chore time too! Get the ball in the pocket, Never mind gettin’ Dandelions pulled Or the screen door patched or the beefsteak pounded. Never mind pumpin’ any water ‘Til your parents are caught with the Cistern empty On a Saturday night and that’s trouble, Oh, yes we got lots and lots a’ trouble. I’m thinkin’ of the kids in the knickerbockers, Shirt-tail young ones, peekin’ in the pool Hall window after school, ya got trouble, folks.

Hill ramps up his warning, telling the “fine folks” of River City what’s in store:

One fine night, they leave the pool hall, Headin’ for the dance at the Armory! Libertine men and Scarlet women! And Rag-time, shameless music That’ll grab your son and your daughter With the arms of a jungle animal instinct.

Scary! Hill warns that, “the idle brain is the devil’s playground!” But then he offers the antidote to all this evil: a boy’s band. For which he will sell them the instruments and band uniforms.

Contemporary Harold Hills are selling medicines for imaginary diseases  all around us.

Did the Consumer Product Safety Commission issue a finding that gas stoves can cause asthma in small children? OMG! “They” are coming for our gas ranges! Those “woke” bureaucrats in Washington are going to ban the use of gas cookstoves, and they probably won’t even pay compensation! That’s what you get when you let Democrats run the administrative branch of government!

The fear and frenzy stirred up by GOP culture warriors prompted the head of the agency to issue a statement confirming the research results and the fact that the CPSC is looking for ways to reduce indoor air quality hazards, but does not intend to ban gas stoves. 

CPSC also is actively engaged in strengthening voluntary safety standards for gas stoves.  And later this spring, we will be asking the public to provide us with information about gas stove emissions and potential solutions for reducing any associated risks.  This is part of our product safety mission – learning about hazards and working to make products safer. 

There’s a lesson here for Americans who laughed at the comedic effectiveness of Harold Hill, or are currently marveling at the ability of Republican culture warriors to convince lots of people that “the government” is coming for their gas stoves. Stoking fear about– and then directing anger against– otherwise innocuous matters, works. In the Music Man, the tactic sold band instruments; in the great gas stove eruption, it allows angry citizens to confirm their anti-“wokeness” and determination to vote against “the libs.”

We see the tactic all around us. 

Are LGBTQ people more visible? Those Drag Queen story hours and library books about Heather’s Two Mommies are turning toddlers gay!

Are the kids learning about events we older folks didn’t encounter in school? Things like the Trail of Tears or the Tulsa massacre? Allowing teachers to include the seamier side of American history is a “woke” attack on American Exceptionalism and the firmly-held belief that we are–and have always been–the good guys.

Did epidemiologists tell us to  protect our friends and families from disease by wearing masks during a pandemic? They are obviously part of that “woke” elite that is constantly attacking American freedom!

Etcetera, etcetera.

Ya got trouble, my friend–right here in  America! You need to fight back. Threaten the library. Scream at school board members and have the smug culture warriors who dominate your legislature tell teachers what they can and cannot say. Insist that the President fire Dr. Fauci! (Whoops–too late. He retired.)

And tell your friends on Facebook that the government will have to pry your gas stove out of your cold, dead, oven-mitted hands.

Harold Hill clones are everywhere.


  1. Methinks those on the right pulling out their hair over gas stoves may have just boosted sales…sort of like ‘they’re coming for your guns!’ Oh, the gullible!

  2. For many years, “We got trouble right here in River City,” accompanied by eye rolling, has been the stock reaction to political scaremongering of all types. Of course, as Prof. K’s blog illustrates daily, we indeed “got trouble right here in River City.”

  3. When you buy into fearmongering over imagined problems it absolves you from working on the real problems of life. “Forget about mass shootings; how about those gas stoves?” You’re working on a “big problem” alright, but it is imaginary. You get to look like you care but not have to actually do something.
    The lies we tell ourselves are the ones that truly bite.

  4. I think that years of lobbying by the natural gas industry has convinced us that gas stoves are the best without regard for any other consideration other than to sell more gas.

    With the pandemic and TV cooking shows switching gears to stay on the air, I find out all of these TV chefs have electric and induction ranges at home. I just saw a couple of reviews on how good induction stoves are, better than gas.

    The outage is most likely being manufactured by the natural gas lobby.

  5. Oh, and don’t forget how drag queen shows are grooming our children to be gay. Since Republicans generally have no agenda that actually deals with governing, they default to bullshit… as they’ve done since Reagan and every other Republican administration.

    Meanwhile, yet another mass shooting has happened at a dance hall near Los Angeles. Gun restrictions? No way. Some misguided judge in Illinois decided that the governor’s new law to ban assault rifles was unconstitutional. Really? Really!

    “River City” will most certainly become a s***hole place as long as Republicans are in charge of anything. Watch what happens in the House as the clown car keeps dumping its fetid passengers into American life.

  6. The gas stove “controversy” is the latest super example of “distraction news” and “how to sour people on ‘progressive’ ideas”. While gas stoves are not good for the environment, they are by no means a major contributor to global warming. “Newsertainment” loves this stuff. Anything that distracts us from the real problems is “fun”.

    And it is the perfect example of telling the masses that their “freedoms” are under threat from government. The GOP, as could have been easily predicted, is loving this as it juices their other culture battles, and turns out their base.

    The oil and gas industry is laughing and cheering.

  7. Governments are instituted among people to keep victims safer from loss of their lives, property, or personal space and to provide and maintain commonly used infrastructure. In liberal democracies, they are prohibited from regulating culture. Authoritarians are attracted to the government’s apparent power but not the limitations. They are incompatible with liberal democracies and downright dysfunctional in times when culture change is necessary due to environmental realignment.

  8. Deb, that’s surely right. (See the pun there?) There’ll be a segment of the MAGA crowd that will go out of their way to buy a gas stove now to “own the libs.”

    Republicans are like little dogs, covering their fears with unending barks and yips and feints. It’s actually really sad, upsetting. Or it would be, if they weren’t so dangerous to the rest of us. Especially when some of those scared little dogs bite.

  9. It must be really great to be a Republican leader. You never have to work hard to develop policies. You never have to worry about any of that governing stuff. You can get re-nominated and re-elected just by dreaming up new outrages, especially if you’re in a reliably red state.

  10. No, not since Reagan, since Nixon!
    The GOPIGGIES have nothing else, and the same fools who knew there was no such thing as global warming,
    or that vaccinations caused autism, back in the day, are primed to believe most anything that can not be substantiated.

  11. Just yesterday I watched an old episode of Julia Child’s French Chef show (it was so old, the sponsor was S&H Greenstamps), and she was cooking merrily away on an electric range—the kind with the coil burners, for heck’s sake!
    The GOP evidently doesn’t realize that when people are concerned about kitchen table issues, cooking with gas isn’t really at the top of the list.

  12. Professor Harold Hill is the perfect analogy for right-wing scare-mongers of today.

    A CNN panel recently noted Gov. DeSantis’ ban on a black history course elective in Florida high schools because he said it had no educational value. The panelist had the perfect response, saying “How would he know?”.

  13. Similar to ridiculing the concerns over gas stoves is the inability of many people to recognize the dangers of lawn care chemicals. Report after report is released showing the correlation between the use of fertilizers and cancer, yet few appear to notice.

  14. Great post, Sheila. That song has often come to my mind during the decades of fear mongering from the right (and sometimes the left).

    Side note – for many years the family of Meredith Willson demanded that the lyrics be kept off of the Internet. They seemed to be of the Sony Bono school of MINE, MINE, MINE forever!!!
    I am glad the lyrics are available. It is a great musical with great lyrics, unlike the “passable” songs of Bono.

  15. So, the reality is that all of these things are true at the same time:

    1. Yes, the Crazy Right is using “They are coming for your stoves” to stir the pot – pun intended.
    2. Yes, there are indoor air quality issues with gas stoves – especially with tight houses
    3. Yes, certain folks have been trying -very successfully – to ban gas stoves, and gas in general, in new construction. Most of this is really about “decarbonizing” but indoor air quality is being used as a back door.
    4. Yes, much of our obsession about cooking with gas is the result of marketing
    5. Yes, fossil fuel folks are laughing all the way to the bank – and are probably underwriting #1 above.

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