George Carlin, a frequent critic of politics and government, was unquestionably one of the greatest comedians and social commentators to ever take the stage.
George Carlin was much more than a mere stand-up comedian, actor, author and social critic. He also offered some of the very best commentary on contemporary political issues. George Carlin used his unmatched knowledge of the English language to tell it like it is, focusing on religion, politics, and, well, things that just pissed him off. He won 5 Grammy Awards for his work, had 14 HBO Specials beginning in 1977, was a frequent guest on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, and was the first host of Saturday Night Live. In 2008, he was posthumously awarded the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor.
Carlin was best known for pushing the envelope of free expression with his routine “Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television,” which first appeared on Carlin’s fourth album, Class Clown [below]. It was recorded May 27, 1972 at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium in Santa Monica, California, and released in September of that year. Those “Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television” were later aired on radio stations and formed the basis for a Supreme Court case, Federal Communications Commission v. Pacifica Foundation, 438 U.S. 726 (1978). The case went on to become a landmark Supreme Court decision, defining the power of the FCC over indecent material as applied to broadcasts.
Below are but a few of his words regarding politics and government:
“I really haven’t seen this many people in one place since they took the group photographs of all the criminals and lawbreakers in the Ronald Reagan Administration.” ~ What Am I Doing in New Jersey? (1988)
“It’s a great country, but it’s a strange culture. … This is a place where gun store owners are given a list of stolen credit cards, but not a list of criminals and maniacs! And now, they’re thinking about banning toy guns – and they’re gonna keep the fucking real ones!” ~ What Am I Doing in New Jersey? (1988)
“Government want to tell you things you can’t say because they’re against the law, or you can’t say this because it’s against a regulation, or here’s something you can’t say because its a…secret; “You can’t tell him that because he’s not cleared to know that.” Government wants to control information and control language because that’s the way you control thought, and basically that’s the game they’re in.”~ Doin’ It Again (1990)
“Smug, greedy, well-fed white people have invented a language to conceal their sins. It’s as simple as that. The CIA doesn’t kill anybody anymore, they neutralize people, or they depopulate the area. The government doesn’t lie, it engages in disinformation. The Pentagon actually measures nuclear radiation in something they call sunshine units. Israeli murderers are called commandos, Arab commandos are called terrorists. Contra killers are called freedom fighters. Well, if crime fighters fight crime, and firefighters fight fires, what do freedom fighters fight?” ~ Doin’ It Again (1990)
“Now, to balance the scale, I’d like to talk about some things that bring us together, things that point out our similarities instead of our differences. ‘Cause that’s all you ever hear about in this country. It’s our differences. That’s all the media and the politicians are ever talking about—the things that separate us, things that make us different from one another. That’s the way the ruling class operates in any society. They try to divide the rest of the people. They keep the lower and the middle classes fighting with each other so that they, the rich, can run off with all the fucking money! Fairly simple thing. Happens to work. You know? Anything different—that’s what they’re gonna talk about—race, religion, ethnic and national background, jobs, income, education, social status, sexuality, anything they can do to keep us fighting with each other, so that they can keep going to the bank! You know how I define the economic and social classes in this country? The upper class keeps all of the money, pays none of the taxes. The middle class pays all of the taxes, does all of the work. The poor are there just to scare the shit out of the middle class. Keep ’em showing up at those jobs.” ~ Jammin’ in New York (1992)
“Why, why, why, why is it that most of the people who are against abortion are people you wouldn’t wanna fuck in the first place? Boy, these conservatives are really something, aren’t they? They’re all in favor of the unborn. They will do anything for the unborn. But once you’re born, you’re on your own. Pro-life conservatives are obsessed with the fetus from conception to nine months. After that, they don’t want to know about you. They don’t want to hear from you. No nothing. No neonatal care, no day care, no head start, no school lunch, no food stamps, no welfare, no nothing. If you’re preborn, you’re fine; if you’re preschool, you’re fucked. Conservatives don’t give a shit about you until you reach military age. Then they think you’re just fine. Just what they’ve been looking for. Conservatives want live babies so they can raise them to be dead soldiers. Pro-life… pro-life… These people aren’t pro-life, they’re killing doctors! What kind of pro-life is that? What, they’ll do anything they can to save a fetus but if it grows up to be a doctor they just might have to kill it? They’re not pro-life. You know what they are? They’re anti-woman. Simple as it gets, anti-woman. They don’t like them. They don’t like women. They believe a woman’s primary role is to function as a brood mare for the state.” ~ Back In Town (1996)
“Most people seem to have been indoctrinated to believe that bullshit only comes from certain places, certain sources: advertising, politics, salesmen – not true. Bullshit is everywhere. Bullshit is rampant. Parents are full of shit, teachers are full of shit, clergymen are full of shit, and law enforcement people are full…of…shit – this entire country. This entire country is completely full of shit, and always has been. From the Declaration of Independence to the Constitution to the Star-Spangled Banner, it’s still nothing more than one big steaming pile of red, white and blue, all-American bullshit. Because, think of how we started. Think of that. This country was founded by a group of slave-owners who told us all men are created equal. Oh yeah, all men, except for Indians and niggers and women, right? I always like to use that authentic American language. This was a small group of unelected, white, male, land-holding, slave-owners who also suggested their class be the only one allowed to vote. Now, that is what’s known as being stunningly and embarrassingly full of shit. And I think Americans really show their ignorance when they say they want their politicians to be honest. What are these fuckin’ cretins talking about? If honesty were suddenly introduced into American life, the whole system would collapse!” ~ You Are All Diseased (1999)
“You might have noticed that I never complain about politicians. I leave that to others. And there’s no shortage of volunteers; everyone complains about politicians. Everyone says they suck. But where do people think these politicians come from? They don’t fall out of the sky; they don’t pass through a membrane from a separate reality. They come from American homes, American families, American schools, American churches, and American businesses. And they’re elected by American voters. This is what our system produces, folks. This is the best we can do. Let’s face it, we have very little to work with. Garbage in, garbage out.” ~ Napalm and Silly Putty (2001)
“So maybe it’s not the politicians who suck; maybe it’s something else. Like the public. That would be a nice realistic campaign slogan for somebody: “The public sucks. Elect me.” Put the blame where it belongs: on the people. Because if everything is really the fault of politicians, where are all the bright, honest, intelligent Americans who are ready to step in and replace them? Where are these people hiding? The truth is, we don’t have people like that. Everyone’s at the mall, scratching his balls and buying sneakers with lights in them. And complaining about the politicians.” ~ Napalm and Silly Putty (2001)
“For myself, I have solved this political dilemma in a very direct way. On Election Day, I stay home. Two reasons: first of all, voting is meaningless; this country was bought and paid for a long time ago. That empty shit they shuffle around and repackage every four years doesn’t mean a thing. Second, I don’t vote, because I firmly believe that if you vote, you have no right to complain. I know some people like to twist that around and say, “If you don’t vote, you have no right to complain.” But where’s the logic in that? Think it through: If you vote, and you elect dishonest, incompetent politicians, and you screw things up, then you’re responsible for what they’ve done. You voted them in. You caused the problem. You have no right to complain. I, on the other hand, who did not vote—who, in fact, did not even leave the house on Election Day—am in no way responsible for what these politicians have done and have every right to complain about the mess you created. Which I had nothing to do with. Why can’t people see that?” ~ Napalm and Silly Putty (2001)
“Dear Political Activists,
All your chanting, marching, voting, picketing, boycotting and letter-writing will not change a thing; you will never right the wrongs of this world. The only thing your activity will accomplish is to make some of you feel better. Such activity makes powerless people feel useful, and provides them the illusion that they’re making a difference. But it doesn’t work. Nothing changes. The powerful keep the power. That’s why they’re called the powerful.
This is similar to people’s belief that love can overcome everything, that it has some special power. It doesn’t. Except one on one. One on one, love is incredibly powerful. It is a beautiful thing. But if love had any power to change the world, it would have prevailed by now. Love can’t change the world. It’s nice. It’s pleasant. It’s better than hate. But it has no special power over things. It just feels good. Love yourself, find another person to love and feel good.
Love, George” ~ When Will Jesus Bring the Pork Chops? (2004)
“The difference between left and right of center … originated in the French parliament. The people left of center were liberals; the people right of center were conservatives. Broadly speaking. And generally speaking, people on … the right of center, are interested in property values, property, property rights. The rights and the rights of property. And generally speaking again – it’s all generalized – the left-of-center people are more concerned with humans and human beings and human concerns; to the care of humans, not the care and worry about property rights. That’s generally been true. And Bush is pushing this country farther down the hill, faster than anyone has before.” ~ Real Time with Bill Maher, September 9, 2005
“There’s a reason for this, there’s a reason education sucks, and it’s the same reason it will never ever ever be fixed. It’s never going to get any better. Don’t look for it. Be happy with what you’ve got… because the owners of this country don’t want that. I’m talking about the real owners now… the real owners. The big wealthy business interests that control things and make all the important decisions. Forget the politicians. The politicians are put there to give you the idea that you have freedom of choice. You don’t. You have no choice. You have owners. They own you. They own everything. They own all the important land. They own and control the corporations. They’ve long since bought and paid for the Senate, the Congress, the state houses, the city halls. They got the judges in their back pockets and they own all the big media companies, so they control just about all of the news and information you get to hear. They got you by the balls. They spend billions of dollars every year lobbying. Lobbying to get what they want. Well, we know what they want. They want more for themselves and less for everybody else, but I’ll tell you what they don’t want. They don’t want a population of citizens capable of critical thinking. They don’t want well-informed, well-educated people capable of critical thinking. They’re not interested in that. That doesn’t help them. That’s against their interests. That’s right.” ~ Life Is Worth Losing (2005)
“They don’t want people who are smart enough to sit around a kitchen table and think about how badly they’re getting fucked by a system that threw them overboard 30 fuckin’ years ago. They don’t want that. You know what they want? They want obedient workers. Obedient workers, people who are just smart enough to run the machines and do the paperwork. And just dumb enough to passively accept all these increasingly shittier jobs with the lower pay, the longer hours, the reduced benefits, the end of overtime and vanishing pension that disappears the minute you go to collect it. And now they’re coming for your Social Security money. They want your fuckin’ retirement money. They want it back so they can give it to their criminal friends on Wall Street. And you know something? They’ll get it. They’ll get it all from you sooner or later ’cause they own this fuckin’ place. It’s a big club and you ain’t in it. You and I are not in the big club. …The table is tilted, folks. The game is rigged and nobody seems to notice. …And nobody seems to notice. Nobody seems to care. That’s what the owners count on. The fact that Americans will probably remain willfully ignorant of the big red, white and blue dick that’s being jammed up their assholes every day, because the owners of this country know the truth. It’s called the American Dream, ’cause you have to be asleep to believe it.” ~ Life Is Worth Losing (2005)
“I call him Governor Bush because that’s the only political office he’s ever held legally in this country. I don’t care where they hang his portrait, I don’t care how big his library is. To me, he’ll always be “Governor Bush.” I don’t even capitalize his name when I type it anymore.” ~ It’s Bad for Ya (2008)
“Rights aren’t rights if someone can take them away. They’re privileges. That’s all we’ve ever had in this country, is a bill of temporary privileges. And if you read the news even badly, you know that every year the list gets shorter and shorter. You see all, sooner or later. Sooner or later, the people in this country are gonna realize the government does not give a fuck about them! The government doesn’t care about you, or your children, or your rights, or your welfare or your safety. It simply does not give a fuck about you! It’s interested in its own power. That’s the only thing. Keeping it and expanding it wherever possible.” ~ It’s Bad for Ya (2008)