Thursday, March 08, 2007

...and you don't know what it is, do you, Mr. Jones...?

You know, Dan Savage is, generally speaking, not my favorite columnist. On occasion, though, he can be very right-on. This would be one of those occasions.

h/t The World on a Slant

I don’t have thin skin, god knows—how could I after reading the mail that comes in to Savage Love for the last 15 years? But there’s something new and ugly in the air. The efforts of right-wing Christians and the true believers and/or useful idiots that run the GOP—hi there, Mary Cheney—to demonize gays and lesbians haven’t taken place in a vacuum. It seems to me that we may now be seeing the real-world consequences of the right’s efforts to characterize gay marriage—hell, gay existence—as an attack on straight marriage and families. Convince enough drooling idiots in the dominant group that the existence of another group represents some sort of existential assault and, predictable as pogroms, idiots will begin to lash out violently.

I’m reminded of a line in a New Yorker essay written after the bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City in 1995. I can’t find the essay online anywhere, so I’m going to do a bad paraphrase here. (If anyone can find the actual quote, please send it my way.) For two decades right-wingers had encouraged their ever-terrified followers to fear and despise the federal government. It was a campaign that began with Ronald Reagan’s “10 Most Frightening Words in the English Language” joke (“I’m from the federal government and I’m here to help”) and ending two decades later with the NRA calling federal agents “jackbooted thugs” and Watergate felon G. Gordon Liddy reminding his listeners that, since federal agents wear bullet-proof vests, it was a waste of time to shoot federal agents in the chest. “Head shots! Head shots!” Liddy said. “Kills the sons of bitches!” (Gee… could you imagine what would happen if someone on the left said something like that now?)

...

And so here we are again. Prominent figures in the Republican Party are encouraging a poisonous hatred of gays and lesbians. And in what is surely a series of completely unrelated developments, old gay men are being beaten to death on their doorsteps, transsexuals are being fired, men in pink pants are being bashed, gay business are being harassed, and prominent right-wing commentators feel free to throw the word “faggot” at their political opponents.


Well and let's see: we foment hysteria about illegal immigrants, next thing you know, we've got self-formed militias, bored suburban kids join white supremacist gangs,
and oh yeah the Klan is growing.

I'm sure there is a better response to all of this than "let's all mobilize to shut down Fox News and Ann Fucking Coulter...

well, actually, no, i'm not really sure about that, in fact.

On the one hand, people like this don't get play unless that kind of unconscious insane hatred resonates with people; that is, they were already feeling or thinking that way, to one degree or another. Or had a "it's all THEIR fault" button just ready to be pushed.

On the other hand: they don't exactly help, either, do they?

14 comments:

Eli said...

The creepiest thing is that racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia, religious intolerance, *none* of this is really a negative in our society, just so long as you're not too overt about it. In fact, if you use the right dog-whistle codewords, they're a positive *asset*.

Coulter was denounced by conservatives for not using the codewords; Allen got busted on his. But think how close Trent Lott came to getting away with saying the country would have been better off if we had elected a segregationist.

KH said...

Hate is fungible, & not every potential scapegoat becomes an actual one. One function of politics, certainly rightwing politics, is to channel society’s surplus aggression toward or away from the various groups against whom attacks might resonate. So no, it doesn't exactly help.

I live across the bridge from the Omni Shoreham, & gambolled through the CPAC exhibition halls. (It’s a perverted tradition with me.) I was struck how narrowed & anachronistic the agenda seemed: it was all defunct late '80s/early '90s culture war tropes, almost no reference to the current moment or the actual results of conservative governance. You get a sense of what a constant act of will it takes to sustain their indignation at the liberal enemy, that if they don't constantly reassure themselves with new, ever more outlandish stories of liberal perfidy, they themselves will stop believing.

As usual, the “gay agenda” was a major agenda item. There were two general attitudes, reflecting the two kinds of people who attend the event. There were the older, grizzled activists, crass but behaviorally restrained, who had the usual theocratic, religious right attitude; many of them found Coulter vulgar & embarrassing. But most of the attendees are young (approximately college aged), amazingly physically uniform (corn-fed blond beasts), & sort of thuggish (at least it felt that way to me – it didn’t help that I look like I obviously didn’t belong). They were her main constituency, &, whatever their religious beliefs, as a group they loved her faggot shtick. It’s a generational/cultural divide within the conservative movement.

I’m guardedly optimistic that they’re on the losing side of history on at least this subject, but no future victory against them can redeem the misery they’ll cause until then.

belledame222 said...

yeah, it's the young "blond beasts" that worry me.

my fear is that if say Hillary somehow wins the election, it'll remobilize them to a degree that is not at all counterbalanced by her tepid center-of-the-road politics.

KH said...

Exactly: worst of both worlds. A center-right figure who's reacted against as if she were some kind of radical-leftist Amazon. If we're gonna get the backlash, I'd just as soon it be against the real article.

Granted, I'm easily frightened, but those kids were faintly physically unsettling. They looked like an Aryan family reunion, & if you don't look like them, you get the occasional quizzical look. The only non-WASPish types I saw were literally standing under signs that identified them by ethnicity, all off in a corner.

belledame222 said...

much as i normally despise this sort of thinking, i am almost thinking it might be better if, say, McCain got it. let him bog down with the war; whoever gets it is going to do the same goddam thing, i feel convinced. we need a movement, not another "hold your nose and vote."

although, ask me again tomorrow and i may have a different answer.

argh. when's the world supposed to either end or change? 2012 is it?

R. Mildred said...

The efforts of right-wing Christians and the true believers and/or useful idiots that run the GOP—hi there, Mary Cheney—to demonize gays and lesbians haven’t taken place in a vacuum. It seems to me that we may now be seeing the real-world consequences of the right’s efforts to characterize gay marriage—hell, gay existence—as an attack on straight marriage and families. Convince enough drooling idiots in the dominant group that the existence of another group represents some sort of existential assault and, predictable as pogroms, idiots will begin to lash out violently.

Dear Dan Savage,

On behalf of all muslims, and in light of your stance in the muhammed cartoons fiasco,

DUH, fuckwit.

2012 is it?

12/12/2012.

According to some of the "singularity"-ists (We'll all upload into computers, or become computers, or turn into energy (Artifical intelligences will be involved at somepoint) and then robots will look after the computers which we'll use to cuss at each other over the interwebs because cussing is a corporeal act, or something, server maintenance has yet to be arranged i think) and it may also be the day the mayan long count reaches zero (either 2012 or 2030something - because no way in hell it synches so neatly with the gregorian calender unless it IS the end of the world, except year zero doesn't mean anything really, it's a weird artifact of their astrological numerology more than anything else, an odd base 53 system or something) which means... that the mayans will have to hurry and stop the Y-zero bug kicking into their ancient pyramid spaceships and making them explode, or they'll have to reset their calenders.

R. Mildred said...

I'm a theoretical muslim for that last comment, um... I denounce my ehtnicity and steal another, Chasingmoksha told me I can do that, so I am, so there.

Rosie said...

Coulter is so disturbing to me on so many levels. She's starting to look really bad though. Physically, I mean. I think it would be really unhealthy to spew that much hatred on a day to day basis. I don't know how she keeps it up.

Eli said...

much as i normally despise this sort of thinking, i am almost thinking it might be better if, say, McCain got it. let him bog down with the war; whoever gets it is going to do the same goddam thing, i feel convinced. we need a movement, not another "hold your nose and vote."

I'll say the same thing I said when people were saying this about Bush in '04: SUPREME COURT.

Eli said...

Oops, sorry about the italics.

This is what happens when you try to do HTML on a Treo...

belledame222 said...

rosie: i get the impression that in fact the sheer vitriol is the only thing that keeps Coulter going.

little light said...

It's 12/20/2012, Belle, end of the Mayan Long Count.

...I was raised to train myself for the coming End of Days. However much of my upbringing I've shucked or shed, old habits die hard, and I know my various apocalypse stories like the back of my hand.
...some of us have weird upbringings. Really weird.

cicely said...

Here's something that somewhat baffles me and maybe someone from in the belly of the beast can comment on it. As a viewer of US tv programs imported into Australia, I get the distinct impression that the leftish is good and the radical right, or even just the right perse, is bad (ish). Granted, there seems to be an increased number of references to god and faith recently, but overall the tendency to embrace leftish values remains intact. Take 'The West Wing'. The Democrats, it seems to me, are clearly the good guys. (Alan Alda's character - the Republican candidate is complex and sympathetic, but true wingnut stuff is always challenged.) In 'Bones', there's Angela representing autonomous female sexuality, and the young guy who's happy to admit his ignorance about relating to women, and even happy to ask advice of other men instead of exhibiting the usual male bravado...there's 'Will & Grace', there 'was' 'Ellen', there is 'The L Word', there's 'Buffy', there were the gay guys and the lesbians on 'Survivor', and apparently a recent episode of something like 'Wifeswap' had a lesbian changing places with a religious wife. The gay brother/son in 'Six Feet Under'..and so on.

Oh, and the Oscars. OK, last year the beautiful 'Brokeback Mountain' was overlooked for Best Picture, but it was nominated along with 'Capote' and 'TransAmerica'. And this year, Ellen hosted, and made that great comment about there not being a movie industry at all if it weren't for the jews, the blacks and the gays - or anyone called Oscar for that matter. (paraphrased.)And Jodie Foster gave out an award too. (Anyone else catch that sharp, distinctly unfeminine change of direction and forthright (?) walk when she appeared to realise she was going the wrong way... She strode to the podium rather than 'glided'.) And Melissa Etheridge kissed her wife, and referred to her as same in front of the worlwide audience.

The entertainment industry operates for profit, so it aims to please the widest audience possible, I assume. I honestly cannot imagine a successful entertainment industry (particularly thinking of tv) that embraced right wing views - as in this balance being exactly reversed. Does full-on 'American tv in America' have the same leftish flavour as what I see over here? Or, do you think conservatives and right wingers feel well enough represented overall? (And by what type of programs, excepting evangelist stuff?)

I wonder whether there isn't some kind of 'last throes' desperation going on from the right which explains the venom, although the Right's actual political power is certainly organised and strong. How can they really feel that the people, overall, are with them though? Maybe I'm missing something really obvious. If so, I'd like to know what it is.

belledame222 said...

cicely: two words: Rupert Murdoch.

yeah, he's yours by origin, but we've adopted him pretty well.

so, yeah, Hollywood is still probably lib-Dem in a certain glib, enbubbled kind of way, which makes it an eternal favorite target of the RR dog-whistlers. The news is a different story. Which matters more? Well...