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By Tom Murphy
On the wall in my house, right next to the desk where I work, hangs a framed vinyl copy of the 1978 Ted Nugent butt-rocker Weekend Warriors. Not because the record itself is any good (it's not), but because of the cover art: a realist portrait of a shirtless, bell-bottomed Nuge in mid-shred, foot up on the amp all guitar-god like, firing a guitar that is also a gun. It's fucking epic. It's probably the best album cover of all time.
It also offers a convenient general analogy for the awesome and terrible legend of the Motor City Madman, which has always been roughly 5 percent about the music (and even then, mostly "Stranglehold") and 95 percent about the sideshow: the rock star as a gun-toting, froth-mouthed wingnut and his gleefully cartoonish acceptance of that caricature. That's been the case for over forty years. The only reason the Nuge didn't star in a series of preposterous reality-TV shows before the early aughts was because reality TV wasn't as prevalent then. Really, he was made for it. His whole life is pretty much a reality show just waiting to be filmed.
Given that role, the gauntlet he threw at the NRA rally in St. Louis (where else?) last week was not even a little surprising. "We need to ride into the battlefield and chop their heads off in November," he urged — because when the train pulls into Nugent Town, presidential elections get fucking METAL. "If Barack Obama becomes the president in November again," he concluded, "I will either be dead or in jail this time next year." Quick! Somebody get a camera on this guy!
The Nuge's straight-man liberal foils were predictably outraged. Michael Keegan, president of the left-wing advocacy group People for the American Way, offered this statement: "We don't expect moderation from Ted Nugent, but we do expect a major presidential candidate like Mitt Romney to rebuke a prominent supporter for spewing hate-filled and violent rhetoric against the President of the United States." Keegan and the Nuge were then challenged to see who could kill, skin and eat an elk the fastest while racing down the world's largest water slide. Or at least that's the way it should have gone down, because nothing about the Nuge has ever been remotely serious.
But what actually happened, weirdly, was that the Secret Service got involved. "We are aware of it," a Secret Service spokesman told New York magazine, "and we'll conduct an appropriate followup." America can only hope that what the Secret Service means by "an appropriate followup" is really "a crossbow contest that involves shooting a watermelon off a buffalo at 170 yards with an explosive-tipped arrow," but just in case it doesn't, I'll offer this advice: Don't worry about it, dudes. Go ahead and keep worrying about the terrorists or whatever.
The Romney camp did, by the way, distance itself from the Nuge's remarks — but not because Romney gives a shit about any liberal hand-wringing. In reality, that shit is just too silly to be associated with for any real political purpose. The Nuge exists to be ridiculous, but it's even more ridiculous to take him seriously.