American Knucklehead

American Knucklehead
Art by Trevor Blake

American Knucklhead has quickly become my favorite podcast. It’s hosted by a local Portland college drop-out turned bowling alley equipment technician who goes by the name of Joe Knucklhead. Joe’s somehow managed to drift from Ohio through the mountain west and on up here to Oregon during his life, and has picked up a lot of observations about the state of the country and the people who inhabit it. Every two weeks or so he speaks his mind – just the perspective of your average American Knucklehead. He was kind enough to answer a few questions for me this week.

Klint Finley: Thanks for taking time to talk to the liberal media Joe. Why don’t you start by explaining who you are and why you started a podcast, for those who aren’t already familiar with your show.

Joe Knucklehead: My name’s Joe and I’m just a regular shmoe that works in a bowling alley in Portland. I started to podcast because it seemed to me that a lot of things were starting to get a little hinky in the good old USA, and I had a few ideas about how us knuckleheads might fix ‘em.

You live here in Portland, best known as a place full of anarchists, tree huggers and trust fund hippies. But if I’m not mistaken, you’re from what Sarah Palin once called “The Real America” – Ohio. How different is Portland from the rest of the country?

Well, a lot in someways, and not at all in others. That ambiguous enough for ya? Portland is different in that it seems a lot more tolerant of a wider range of opinions and behaviors. Where I grew up in Dacron, Ohio, it was a pretty homogenous population, and they didn’t take to weirdos too well. If you’ve ever seen Heathers you’ll know what I mean.

On the other hand, knuckleheads abound, and most folks want pretty much the same things; a chance to earn an honest buck, shelter, safety, a future for themselves and their families.

Well, I’ve noticed that if you get outside the inner Portland bubble – which is where I happen to live – and get out to the rest of the city it’s a lot less “hipster.”

Yeah, that’s for sure. There are hipsters and hipsters.

But what do you think? Is there anything to this red state/blue state divide – or urban vs. rural?

Y’know, I’ve seen studies that showed that red state/blue state voting patterns correlate amazingly well with population density. People in higher densities tend to be more “tweetery” – the higher density makes ‘em have to deal with a variety of other ideas and opinions. That’s one of the reasons Portland is relatively progressive, I think.

You’ve been talking a bit lately about the Occupy movement. There’s this online counter-movement of conservatives called the “53%” who claim to be subsidizing the Occupy movement via taxes. They say that the protesters need to “stop whining.” What do you think about this – is it a real populist sentiment, or just more divisiveness?

Naw, it’s a total PR ploy. The guy that dreamed it up, Erick Erickson, is a woofer blogger, CNN talking head, and radio talk show host. I’d say he’s been amazingly effective at providing a pointless distraction.

I talked to one of the organizers of Occupy Portland in the last show. He was very eloquent in dismissing the 53% movement as a divisive right-wing talking point.

Well, sure Erickson dreamed it up – but all those people sending in their pictures can’t just be paid actors can they?

Sure, they could be paid actors or just liars. Don’t trust the Internets!

OK – maybe I shouldn’t be so dismissive. It’s pretty easy to whip up anti-Occupy sentiment by resorting to old prejudices and bigotry. Things are scary right now, and people can behave oddly when they’re scared. I’m sure the Occupy movement seems real scary to plenty of Knuckleheads out there.

Yeah, the right wing talking heads have convinced people that the Occupy movement is all about communism. I was just at Occupy Wall Street last week and even I was surprised at how level headed and non-socialist it was. The organizers spent a lot of the time I was there talking about how Occupy to support local small businesses.

Yeah, Occupy Portland seems pretty broad-minded, too. The way the conflict with the Portland Marathon was handled was pretty impressive. They came to an amicable agreement, and both sides were pleased with the extra attention. Synergy, friends and neighbors!

I talked to a league bowler who’s been coming into the alley for years. he ran in the race, and I thought he’d be carping about the “hippies” at the finish line. Instead he said they were really great – applauding the runners as they came in.

It seems they’re really interested in pitching a big tent and creating a platform for people to discuss how best to address the issues we’re facing as a country. But do you think there’s any room for the Tea Party and Occupy to form an alliance, or are they too culturally different? I know the Tea Party has a certain amount of establishment support, from Fox News, the GOP and so on, but it does seem that there’s a legitimate grass roots element there that could lend its support to the goals of Occupy.

I think that’s the next logical step – although sometimes logic don’t play too well in Peoria. Still, I hope that the Knuckleheads in both the Tea Party and the Occupy movement will realize that there’s a lot of common ground, and that the extremists are better off on the margins. Perhaps this group could be mobilized to create one or more new parties – I don’t have much hope for the two parties we have now.

It seems that when anyone starts talking about wanting to improve our economic situation, the right wing response is to accuse those tho speak out against economic injustice as having a sense of “entitlement.” Entitlement has become a dirty word. But really – do you think the average American deserves better than what we’re getting?

There’s a big difference in having a sense of entitlement and wanting a level playing field. It seems that things for the average Knucklehead have gotten worse over the last two or three decades. Wages remain stagnant while the costs of education, healthcare, and so forth have really gone through the damn roof.

OK, we’ve so far in this interview we’ve been pretty friendly to liberals. What message would you like to send the liberal readership? What should liberal elitists like me know about knuckleheads like you?

The main problem I have with tweeters is that they get too focused on pet causes and issues – usually with a maniacal zeal that turns off Knuckleheads like me who aren’t totally on board with that particular pet issues. Right now, I think everybody ought to stick with a wider view. Let’s look at the forest, and we can obsess over individual trees later, huh?

What do you read, watch or listen to keep up with current events?

Everything that the Alaska Quitter does! I usually get my news from mainstream media websites: CNN, Reuters, AP, the Onion. Sometimes I can hoark a copy of the Economist from a friend.

Has anyone approached you about doing a “real” radio show? Have you talked to KBOO?

Hadn’t really thought of it. I did college radio before I got kicked out of Ohio State – it was a blast. That’s what I like about the podcasting – also I don’t have to do something like pull a weekly shift in some godawful 3 a.m.to 6 a.m. slot – the horror, the horror…