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theodore M I R A L D I mpa ... editor, publisher, writer. katherine molé mfa ... art director
Sunday, July 27, 2014
'WE CAN'T MANUFACTURE UTOPIA!'
Meet Scott Ott, satiric blogger who morphed into constitutional scholar
By Edward B. Driscoll, Jr.
Scott Ott, who hosted the 20-part “Freedom’s Charter” series for PJTV.com, reveled in being able to visit Independence Hall and the National Constitution Center with a video production team to document the birth of the American dream. But perhaps his greatest moment in those two historic monuments was sans camera crew.
“I was following a tour group of children from a public school in inner city Baltimore through Independence Hall,” Ott says. “They were probably second or third graders. I followed them into the room, and as the docent is talking to them, I’m standing at the back of the room, and they’ll all in front of me at the railing looking at this, and every last one of these kids was black.
“And I’m just overwhelmed with emotion, because I’m thinking: This is your Constitution. Forget about the screw-ups we made in the past, and the stupid Civil War that we had to fight because of the screw-ups we made in the past. This is your Constitution. And I stand in the back of the room, and you get to go right up to the railing and you get to hear about this. And that was just overwhelming for me.”
Ott discussed his exhaustive research, which led to his “Freedom’s Charter” video series profiled earlier this month at WND. It capped the transformation that he’s made, as have millions of others, from being a college-age liberal to a conservative. For Ott, such a change was initially sparked by first watching speeches by President Reagan on TV in the 1980s, and comparing them to how corrosively Reagan was portrayed by the New York Times, and yet thinking, as Ott says today, “I’d watch Reagan on TV, and I’d think, you know, I’d like to have that guy over for a beer.” In the 1990s, Ott says, “I started listening to Rush Limbaugh because I thought he was funny even though I disagreed with him – and little by little, he kind of got to me.”
But what really sealed the deal for Ott is that “I actually came to Christ. I was saved when I was 28 years old. Just because you’re a Christian doesn’t mean you’re a Republican. But what it did was, it brought me face to face with the fundamental truth about why the Constitution is the way it is. And that is because the framers knew that man is inherently sinful, and given the opportunity of organizing himself into government, he will impose his will upon others. And the whole Constitution was written to defend us against what they knew man’s basic nature was.
“And that really started to shift my thinking,” Ott says. “My awareness of my own sinfulness, and by extension, the sinfulness of humanity, made me realize that the utopianism of the Democratic Party was mythical. And that in reality, you had to guard against the power of government, because it was really man’s individual sin, writ large.”
The dawn of the axis of weasels
Initially, Ott pushed back against the left’s utopianism through satire, launching his popular ScrappleFace blog in the summer of 2002.
Ott’s entrance into satiric blogging had humble roots, he says. “When I was a little kid, I used to run around the house with a tape recorder and do sort of parody interviews with my brothers, and just make up stuff and make little newscasts. Then I went to school for journalism at Penn State, and while there I used to post parodies above the urinals at the fraternity house!
“And those were very, very niche market parodies, because it was literally parodies of what was going on in that house at that time. So, when I heard about blogging, being a pseudo-geek, I set one up, and then just stared at it like a blank sheet in a typewriter. And because I didn’t know what to do with the blog, I thought, well, I’ll write a fake news story, because I’ve been doing that for years, in one way or another.”
Early in 2003, Ott’s fake news stories hit the big time, when he coined the phrase “The Axis of Weasels” in a mock apology from Donald Rumsfeld for European perfidy during the period between Sept. 11, 2001, and the run-up to liberate Iraq from Saddam Hussein. At Glenn Reynolds’ popular Instapundit blog on Jan. 23, 2003, Reynolds wrote. “Because a couple of people have emailed me copies, I happen to know that this ScrappleFace item on the ‘Axis of Weasel’ is getting forwarded around the Pentagon and White House.”
Later that week, the New York Post ran a cover story featuring Germany’s Gerhard Schröder and France’s Jacques Chirac shaking hands with the headline, “Axis of Weasels” without attributing Ott. But fortunately, as Ott says today, “James Taranto of the Wall Street Journal credited me for the phrase, and eventually Rush Limbaugh was reading my stories on the air, Glenn Beck did it a couple of times, and I got to go to see Glenn’s show and go out to lunch with him. All of this kind of multiplied from there. One thing led to another, and I wound up writing a lot of ScrappleFace posts, and four books, some of which were compilations of ScrappleFace stories.}
The utopian road to perdition
By 2008, this would lead Ott to the nascent PJTV.com, where in addition to his own Freedom’s Charter series, he co-hosts “Trifecta” with his fellow bloggers Stephen Green and Bill Whittle, and “After Hours” with L.A.-based conservative talk radio hosts Tammy Bruce and John Phillips and civil rights attorney Leo Terrell.
After all of his research on the Constitution, what does Ott think about the articles that have appeared in such formerly august institutions as the New York Times and CBS calling for the demise of the Constitution?
“I’m hoping that most of it is ignorance on the part of the leftists and the New York Times or whatever,” Ott says. “But you can’t read history for too long and honestly say, ‘Hey, this works out really well when you strip people of their protections.’
“And the sad thing, the ironic thing is, it always works out worst for the intellectuals and the journalists,” Ott adds. “They don’t realize that historically, they go to front of the line at the guillotine. They don’t seem to get that, because they all think, ‘I’m going to be on the inside. It’s not going to impact me if that would happen.’”
Utopia building always works out that way, Ott concludes. “And that was the great insight of the constitutional framers – the realization that we can’t manufacture utopia. The best we can do is to protect people from hurting each other by accumulating power and then imposing their will on others. So we can protect people from government, and then let people have the freedom to interact with each other and to prosper and to pursue happiness.”