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Please Advise! Is a Worm-Eaten Brain a Bad Thing for a Politician?

Pshaw, says Dr. Steve. RFK Jr.’s parasite barely registers in today’s political circus.

Steve Burgess 10 May 2024The Tyee

Steve Burgess writes about politics and culture for The Tyee. Read his previous articles.

[Editor’s note: Steve Burgess is an accredited spin doctor with a PhD in Centrifugal Rhetoric from the University of SASE, situated on the lovely campus of PO Box 7650, Cayman Islands. In this space he dispenses PR advice to politicians, the rich and famous, the troubled and well-heeled, the wealthy and gullible.]

Dear Dr. Steve,

A New York Times story revealed that Robert F. Kennedy Jr. was diagnosed with a parasitic worm that consumed part of his brain before dying. How will this affect RFK Jr.’s quest for the White House?

Signed,

Anne Lid

Dear Anne,

In 1970, Frank Zappa released an album called Weasels Ripped My Flesh. In 2024, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. said, “That’s nothing....”

RFK Jr.’s medical revelation is surely a first in American politics. We’ve been getting a lot of those firsts lately. Once upon a time, breakthroughs in U.S. politics tended to involve marginalized groups fighting through barriers of prejudice to claim their rightful place in the public sphere.

Nowadays it’s more like: multiple felony charges, sexual assault verdicts, insurrections, dog-murdering and white supremacy need not be politically disqualifying. You shall overcome, thugs, half-wits and psychos! In this electoral climate, a brain-eating worm might feel right at home. Necessary, even.

Perhaps brain parasites are even in line with our cultural moment. Season two of the HBO series The Last of Us is filming in Vancouver right now, continuing the story of people infected with a terrible parasitic invader that transforms them into predatory, ravening beasts. It might not seem like an obvious political persona. But TV shows have launched worse political careers — recall The Apprentice.

The whole brain parasite thing is a useful new angle. One can imagine this excuse coming up in all sorts of situations, from political gaffes to domestic disputes: “But honey, it wasn’t me who said those things to your mother — it was the brain-eating worm.”

One can even imagine the brain worm as a political asset. Consider the career of, say, Marjorie Taylor Greene. After hearing the stuff that comes out of her mouth, wouldn’t you want the option of deploying the brain-worm excuse? “The brain worm made me do it!” It’s better than “The dog ate my homework.”

If this story had broken during the Trump administration, his press secretaries would have had a much easier time of it. America should buy Greenland? People should inject bleach? “I’m a stable genius?” “Brain worm. All brain worm. Had to be. No more questions.”

Of course, if Trump had any brain-eating worms, they would all have died of malnutrition. It’s a shame Trump couldn’t acquire thousands of them, filling up that thick skull in a big, writhing mass. Then the worms could hang up a sign reading, “Under new management.” Couldn’t do any worse.

RFK Jr.’s worm was deceased, apparently remaining in his brain. So the question arises, what killed RFK Jr.’s parasite? Perhaps his brain worm ate something that disagreed with it. In other words, it was a Democrat.

That’s the weirdest thing about RFK Jr.’s bizarre candidacy for president. He’s the scion of a Democratic Party hero, gifted with the face and the name of his revered father. But he’s a Democrat like the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is a democracy. RFK Jr. has been a fountain of crackpot anti-vax theories and an enthusiastic promoter of crypto-currency, palling around with the likes of conspiracy monster Alex Jones. He’s like a real-world version of that movie Face/Off where John Travolta becomes Nicholas Cage and vice versa. RFK Jr. got his dad’s visage, but not his vision.

RFK Jr. is essentially a libertarian, a transverse slice of the American electorate that draws from both right and left. If people pay attention to what he says rather than who he resembles, though, it is certainly possible that RFK Jr. will pull more votes away from Trump than Biden. A worm in the GOP apple, so to speak.

As for the poor little parasite, what a shame it did not survive. With this kind of publicity, it’d be a cinch to make Top Chef All-Stars. Maybe even a cooking show on PBS: “The Cerebral Gourmet.”

Alas, it was not to be. When your diet consists of political brain cells, extinction is inevitable.  [Tyee]

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