Those who were around in the 1980s probably remember Teddy Ruxpin, a “talking” bear. The toy’s main feature was that it would play special tapes and move as it “talked.” These tapes featured an audio track for the talking and another track that would direct the motions of the toy.
I first saw the toy on TV and thought it was a bit creepy-it seemed to be a possessed teddy bear. When I was in graduate school, a friend of mine said that someone who had been fired from a toy store put a tape of a white supremest speaking into the display Teddy Ruxpin. I don’t know if that really occurred, but the image of a teddy bear speaking on white power has long stuck in my mind.
Of course, Teddy Ruxpin had no idea he was speaking on white supremacy. The toy simply “says” whatever is on the tape. This has long struck me as an excellent metaphor for the minions who deliver the talking points for their political masters on TV. They are, like Teddy Ruxpin, merely mindlessly repeating whatever is on their “tape.” These people could be called “Teddy Ruxspinners.”
Teddy Ruxspinners are fairly easy to spot. First, they tend to ignore the content of any questions they are asked and they simply focus on getting the points out. For example, a Ruxspinner might be asked if Obama’s lack of experience is of concern and the Ruxspinner will talk about the audacity of hope and judgment. Second, they are focused on the talking points and present them with little or no personalization. They are simply saying what is on their tape. Third, they tend to repeat themselves a great deal. The same point will be presented over and over, whether its presentation is relevant to the situation or not. Fourth, they tend to have a certain look and tone that indicates that they are (as Plato would say) being spoken through. In the Ion, Plato noted that the gods and muses take away the reason of the prophets and artists so that we know that it is the gods and muses speaking. The same seems to be true of the Teddy Ruxspinners. They do not seem to be quite in charge as they move and speak.
From a moral standpoint, being a Teddy Ruxspinner seems to be unacceptable. After all, someone is essentially giving up their own views and self in order to be a talking point zombie. This seems to be wrong. Of course, if the Teddy Ruxspinner truly believes, then perhaps this is acceptable. However, watching them always disturbs me and makes me feel vaguely sad for them.