For this year’s Al Copeland Humanitarian Award I would like to nominate Chad Kroeger and JT Parr. Chad and JT take advantage of the public comment sessions that virtually all local governments offer to express their views. And like the 2015 Al winner, Ken M, Chad and JT show us exactly how important those opportunities for public comment really are. In the video above they speak to the LA City Council in defense of house parties. They note all of the ways that house parties had helped them, with JT observing: “I could play beer pong and compete with real integrity. In short, I fulfilled my potential.” And then sounding like an economist (with about the same level of influence over policy), JT warns that there are “externalities” associated with banning house parties, such as the loss of bonding, emphasizing, “America needs bonding.”
In this second video, Chad and JT ask the City Council of Laguna Beach to “boke” their “shmole.” As Chad explains, a shmole is “someone with a good heart who kinda sucks.” They claim that one of the members of their squad, Kevin, is a shmole and the city needs to help them boke him, or remove him from their crew. But they don’t wan’t Kevin to go “homie-less,” so they want the city to enact a shmole relocation program and adopt Kevin to rehabilitate him. Chad and JT estimate that this program would cost about $75,000 per shmole, which could be paid by increasing taxes on their parents’ houses.
In this third video, Chad and JT propose to the Manhattan Beach City Council that they rename their wastewater plant “The Britney Spears ‘Toxic’ Water Center.” Chad mentions that he almost went to a Britney Spears concert when he was 14 but his Dad said, “No. You have to do math.” JT then sings the song “Toxic” to the council.
In our modern age in which leading academics waste countless hours sending messages of 280 characters to each other in “an effort to democratize access to knowledge,” or boast about being a “subtweet aficionado,” Chad and JT reveal this activity for what it really is — a world in which everyone is on the stage and no one is in the audience and where all forms of expertise and authority are degraded. People active in Edu-Twitter and Econ-Twitter may imagine that they are shaping the world because they have thousands or even tens of thousands of followers, but remember that Chad and JT’s videos have been viewed well over a million times. Chad and JT have no more influence over local government policy than academic Twitter has over public policy. And by wasting so much energy on social media, academics place themselves on the same level as people like Chad and JT who have no shortage of proposals, opinions, and even evidence such as a a large graph with “metrics” proving that Kevin is a shmole.
But Chad and JT don’t just reveal the silliness that has gripped much of academia, they also reveal the phoniness of democratic input in public policymaking. Governments create public comment opportunities to give people the illusion that they have control over government policy. In actuality, public influence over policymaking has always been indirect and mostly channeled through the activities of organized interests. This is not a bad thing to be lamented. It is simply a reality to be accepted. The Voice of the People as expressed on social media or in public comment times is more about catharsis than it is about control.
If people are going to waste their time on social media or in public comment periods, it might as well be amusing rather than the self-important and over-earnest stuff typically found in academic Twitter or local government meetings. For taking this useless activity and making it entertaining, Chad and JT have significantly improved the human condition and therefore are worthy of the Al Copeland Humanitarian Award.