Journal of the
An interview with Joe Bob Briggs and John Bloom
Columnist John Bloom, somewhat better known as Joe Bob Briggs, very kindly gave editors Mayerson and Sutton the interview below in early June 2003. In addition to writing numerous columns and articles, Mr. Briggs has these books available on Amazon: Profoundly Disturbing : Shocking Movies That Changed History!; Joe Bob Goes to the Drive-In ; Joe Bob Goes Back to the Drive-In; Iron Joe Bob; The Cosmic Wisdom of Joe Bob Briggs; Guide to Western Civilization, or My Story. And for all things Joe Bob Briggs and some John Bloom writings, too, try out JoeBobBriggs.com.
Laurel Sutton: Five columns a week - that's a lot of reading and writing. Do you read other columnists regularly, and if so, who? Do you read any comic strips daily?
Joe Bob: I'm afraid it's no on both counts. I read eight newspapers a day--eleven on Wednesday--but I skim columns. I look for topics that interest me. I'll usually read Frank Rich's column in the New York Times because it's always meticulously researched and his thinking is deep. I'll read Lewis Lapham in Harper's. Everyone else is hit and miss.
Ginger Mayerson: If it's not you, who's your favorite columnist and why is that?
JB: Lewis Lapham, because he has a refined sense of history, the ability to use American English in a powerful way, and the courage to push logic to counter-intuitive conclusions.
LS: What fiction are you currently reading?
JB: I'm not currently reading fiction. I'm reading a history of Hungary. The last fiction I read was Lafcadio Hearn's "Kwaidan."
LS: Do you work hard to keep Joe Bob Briggs and John Bloom separate identities? How do you decide which byline to use?
JB: I would prefer to just use Joe Bob, because he's better known than John Bloom, but I was an eyewitness to the 9/11 attacks, and when I called UPI and said, "Well, how do I file this story?," they said, "I don't think we can put Joe Bob's name on that." So we decided that when the subject is sufficiently serious that it would be offensive to write about it as Joe Bob, I use John Bloom. I also use John Bloom for media criticism, because if I didn't, my fellow journalists would crucify me for hiding behind the nom de plume. Things were so much easier in the 19th century.
LS: Where do you draw your inspiration for "God Stuff"? Were you raised in a religious family? What makes homegrown American religions (Mormons, 12th Day Adventists, Jehovah's Witnesses) so singular?
JB: I was brought up in the Southern Baptist church, but I dropped out pretty early. I have some friends who run a "televangelist watchdog" organization. They monitor those guys and ferret out the ones who are fleecing widows. So they had collected all this videotape in a sort of "greatest hits" reel, and they showed it to me one day, and I thought, this is great. You don't have to watch the whole sermon, but you can see the funniest parts. Hence the idea for "God Stuff." What makes homegrown religions so interesting is that they are all run by CRAZY PEOPLE.
LS: What place does religion have in our lives? Can you be moral without belief in God?
JB: I'm a lifelong journalist. I think everyone is immoral. Actually that's the orthodox Christian view as well, though, isn't it? That all are sinful, all are fallen. I think that God should be part of your life but not your politics.
LS: Are you ever going to direct a film?
JB: I'm flattered that you think I would be capable of directing a film. I'm not sure I have the monomaniacal self-destructive nature to spend three solid years doing that, to the exclusion of all other things in my life. I tend to be a multi-tasker, instead of working on one big "War and Peace" project.
LS: What did you have for breakfast this morning?
JB: I had one of those high-protein milkshakes because I was going to the gym.
GM: Do you have any idea what GW Bush's appeal is?
JB: Well, I guess thinking "He's got that kinky sex look behind his eyes" is out.
LS: Is John Ashcroft really Caligula?
JB: Are you confusing Caligula with Comstock? Caligula was a wild and crazy guy.
GM: If John Ashcroft could be Caligula for a day, what's the first thing he'd do?
JB: He'd say either "What are these three transvestite hookers doing in my bed?" or "Where's my sister?"
LS: Who will win the next presidential election? Who should win the next presidential election?
JB: I think it will be as close as the last one. George Bush is very politically sophisticated, and any problems he's having now- -and he's having quite a few--will be addressed. He doesn't just stand idly by and let events overwhelm him. Most of the Democrats are pansies. The only one with balls is Hillary Clinton.
GM: What issues do you think the Democrats should run on in 2004? If they're not the same, what issues do you think they can they win on?
JB: I think the Democrats should run on the issue of being more charitable among ourselves, more forgiving in general, and more willing to be a part of the international community. I don't think they can win on this. They can win on making Bush look like a lunatic on the economy, and making him look like a loose-cannon cowboy overseas. You wouldn't think it would be that hard to defeat him. After all, when he was elected in 2000, this was a country at peace with plenty of money. Now it's a country constantly going to war with no money, continuing to spend more than it has.
GM: I feel certain that Dennis Kucinich (http://www.kucinich.net/) is going to get the Beatle hair vote, but has anyone in the Dem field caught your eye and how so?
JB: Just Hillary. I think the fact that so many people hate her will give her lots of media opportunities, more than any other candidate. (Hell, I don't even know that she's running.) All she has to do is turn all those negatives into positives, the way she won the U.S. Senate race in New York. She actually CONVERTED people who saw how spunky she was.
GM: Do you think GW Bush is a shoe-in for the Republican nomination in 2004 or is someone on that side going to challenge him?
JB: Are you making a joke?
LS: What is the ultimate goal of the current administration? Should we be afraid of it?
JB: The number one goal is to remain the current administration. The number two goal is to defend the nation against all traitors, domestic and foreign, real and imagined.
GM: Does Patriot Act II make you nervous? And, if so or if not, do you have any insight into why the extreme Right is okay with it? I mean, hasn't it occurred to them that if it can be used to undermine the Left, it can be used to undermine the Right? Do they know something I don't or is one of us just na´ve?
JB: I think every Congressman who voted for the Patriot Act should be thrown out, just on the basis of that one vote. Our own Congress, the one institution that's supposed to enforce our direct will, abandoned protections that go back 227 years, and seriously weakened bulwarks against government intrusion that have been built up over the past 70 years. You can understand if the executive branch tries to get away with it--that's what they do, that's why we wrote the Constitution to oppose anyone who would become king--but Congress? Who ARE these people?
GM: I read the Bloom column on the Miranda rights, do you have any idea why the Supreme Court, and other authoritarian institutions, are making it more difficult to get fair and even treatment in this society?
JB: Well, the way the Founding Fathers set it up, is that the Supreme Court is supposed to protect the Constitution, so the other two branches can't assume that the power derives from them instead of from the people's document. Most of the current justices say they're conservatives, which would mean they're constitutionally oriented and committed to the views of the Founding Fathers, but they were silent when the government suspended habeas corpus after 9/11. So, no, I don't have a clue.
GM: In your opinion, what's the most appalling thing the Bush administration has done in the past 2.5 or so years? Perhaps you have a top five most appalling Bush administration acts?
JB: You're really not Bush fans at all, are you? The most disturbing thing to me was the suspension of habeas corpus, the holding of people in prisons for months and months without lawyers or charges filed or seeing their families--like we're some kind of Third World country.
LS: Would you run for president if asked?
JB: If nominated, I will not run. If elected, I will not serve. If bribed in the high three figures, I'll do anything.
GM: And if so, who would be your running mate?
LS: Why do women swoon over cowboys?
JB: Do women swoon over cowboys? I'm rummaging around here for my chaps and boots.
GM: Do Texas women have a special mystique and who do you consider the greatest living Texas woman and why?
JB: Texas women are beautiful and spunky, which can be a good or a bad combination, depending on which side of the spunk you're on. The greatest living Texas woman would have to be my mom, a former Miss Bluebonnet and lifetime teacher of rambunctious elementary school students, which in far West Texas can involve daily brawls in the schoolyard.
GM: Leaving aside that this interview is being conducted via email, do you like the internet or are you just tolerating it because it will not go away?
JB: Like most people, I have a love-hate relationship with the Internet. It makes some things easier, but it takes up entirely too much time. I had to stop sending out autographed photos because of the Internet. People used to have to spend money on a stamp and a letter and go to some trouble to request a photo. Now you just get hundreds of people who are trying to build a collection they can sell on eBay. Sometimes they don't even bother to put "Dear Joe Bob" on their email. If you look at the recipients, you might find Paul Newman is getting the identical email.
Levis or Wranglers?
JB: Do I have to choose? Is this one of those sneaky free association psychological tests? I always answer the last word I hear, so . . . Wranglers! Not really, it's Levi's.
Ford or Chevy?
JB: Chevy. More romantic.
Lone Star or Maker's Mark?
JB: Both, depending on the occasion. I'm so bad at this.
Patsy or Loretta?
JB: Oh, Patsy, definitely Patsy.
Elvis or Frank?
JB: Frank rules. There will never be another Frank.
Twenty-something or forty-something?
JB: I have no idea what you're talking about. Are these soybean futures?
Hunter Thompson or Tom Wolfe?
JB: Oooo, tough choice. I'm gonna have to go schizophrenic on you here and give you a John Bloom/Joe Bob answer. You've definitely named the masters, though. Hunter Thompson once sent me a photo of himself dynamiting various objects on his Colorado ranch. I have no idea why he sent it, but I understand the artist that made him do it.
Marx Brothers or Monty Python?
JB: Marx Brothers. They're nastier.
Carter or Reagan?
JB: Jimmy Carter's the most underrated statesman we've ever had, in spite of his Nobel Prize. (We don't really even give him credit for that.) The man goes to the Sudan and says to the rebels, "You've got to stop fighting while we deal with some disease problems here," and they . . . DO IT. He's done more good in the world than all the other living presidents combined.
GM: One last question, who has more charm: Mr. Briggs or Mr. Bloom?
JB: I do. No, he does.
GM and LS: Thank you most kindly, sir.
JB: Thanks, hon, and thanks, darlin. (You have to figure out which expressions is used by Joe Bob and which by John.)
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Editor in Chief - Ginger Mayerson
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Updated: July 5, 2003