Sunday, March 25, 2007
How we got to this point
A few weeks back, you saw the way the right works and the way the left or 'left' enables them. We're referring to Ann Coulter's latest attack and the reaction. In what could have and should have been a no brainer -- calling hate speech out for what it was -- a number of commentators took to displaying their own homophobia. Ann Coulter offered a two-fer, an insult on John Edwards (Democratic presidential hopeful) and gay men. Even the ones who fancy themselves to be part of a Platonic debate went into knee jerk mode, completely sidestepping the attack on gay men and rushing in to offer the same stereotype the right works from: gay man equals Nancy.
Is it any wonder the country ended up in the mess it did?
For those who don't believe the world began in the campaign of 1992 and the Clinton bashing that followed, the rights actions of the last few decades aren't at all surprising. The attacks on the sixties, on women, on minorities echo the same attacks that followed WWII. The jazz age through WWII had led to many advances. To stick with the issue of gays (mainly because it makes the psuedo left as uncomfortable as it does many of the most demented on the right), there was a huge transformation going on for gays and lesbians. The response to that, post-WWII, was the governmental witch hunts. You hear McCarthyism tossed out but you rarely hear about the efforts to purge the government of gays and lesbians.
Whenever society becomes inclusive there are those who will project onto it, distort it and fan flames of anger to convince a group that their happiness is being prevented by another demographic group. And, in those periods, you will have some voices who will stand up against those demonizations but you have many others who are happy to accept them -- either due to 'expediency' for their own aims or out of their own personal phobias.
We saw it with the Coulter dust up when left and 'left' voices couldn't address the hate speech and immediately fell into (the right-wing) line insisting that John Edwards was being called "girly." What was so offensive about gay men to those making the leap that they had no time to tackle the issue of what Coulter was actually implying?
A question that became especially popular as last year drew to a close was: "Why did The New York Times' Michael Gordon skate by with a pass while Judith Miller got drummed out of journalism?" Why? Did everyone miss the never ending rounds of Bash the Bitch?
Miller wasn't the only reporter selling the war. She became the lighting rod and that had a lot to do with gender. More recently, some on the left went after Maureen Dowd, suggested that the unmarried Dowd needed to be put into a "home." And, if you bothered to think about it too often, you would grasp that Dowd has hardly been the topic of much of their 'analysis.' She certainly has received far fewer critiques than, for instance, Chris Matthews who, for the record, was being critiqued at that time but without any suggestion that he be sent off to a home.
When the left and 'left' focused on the 2000 campaign coverage, they found two villains. No surprise that in a landscape of many, they zeroed in on the 'evil queens' -- CeCi Connelly and Katharine Q. Seelye or, in 2004, the then-Jodi Wilgoren -- who was such 'fair game' that the then Campaign Desk (now CJR Daily) could distort what she actually said even when they printed a correction to the piece noting that they'd "missed" what a Washington Post reporter had said later in her article (Wilgoren had made the same point later in the same piece for The Times but no need to correct that even when it was pointed out to CJR Daily). It's why there seemed to be some legal requirement that the words "knee pads" preceed the name Elisabeth Bumiller.
We're not defending any of the work done by those women, we are noting, as did Jane Mayer in 2000, that there seemed to be a certain sexim at play when the critiques of women are so personal and the critiques of males aren't. We're not concerned with "tone" or "manners." We think "knee pads" and similar remarks can be quite funny -- when used across the board equally.
Why was it off with Miller's head while the ultimate War Pornographer Gordo lived to keep selling you the current illegal war and do the advanced marketing for a war on Iran? It goes to gender. You saw it flare up again when Senator Barbara Boxer made the perfectly sensible point that no one Condi Rice was related to was serving in the illegal war. The right falsely cried that was "sexist" and some on the left and "left" echoed the cry. (Nora Ephron, writing at The Huffington Post, grasped the reality far better than some of our supposed watchdogs.)
What does it all have to do with today? A lot, actually. Because just as elected Republicans weren't the only ones endorsing the illegal war in 2002, right-wing commentators haven't been the only ones advancing the attacks on anyone who's not a White, Straight, Male.
Recently, one of the commentators pulled a Nicky K, self-stroking that he, and he alone, was calling Chris Matthews out on his sexism. He was calling out Chris Matthews on sexism, when it suited his purposes. If Matthews was going after Barbara Boxer, he didn't give a damn. If Matthews was going after Hillary Clinton or Elizabeth Edwards, suddenly lefty wanted us to all consider him an honorary feminist -- one who, no doubt, had he been around in July 1848, would have been found in Seneca Falls.
It's as though he was faced with his own personal Sophia Choice -- oh, the tragedy. Then there are the others, such as AlterPunk, who can't even offer token support to (some) women. AlterPunk's fond of lists (considering his prose abilities, we'd recommend he sticks to lists as well) and either women are completely absent or he tosses out a token name. AlterPunk loves to traffic in the attacks on women -- for instance, he repeated a lie about Naomi Wolf (that she was a "fashion consultant" for the Gore campaign -- he's never corrected it though it was pointed out after the book came out in hardcover) and he acted as megaphone to Ann Coulter by repeating all her distortions (without ever challenging them or refuting them) on Gloria Steinem. What a friend women hath in Lord Altherman.
Decisions are made by our left and "left" boys repeatedly about who gets defended from attacks and who gets attacked. Women are usually on the losing end of both. While we were in Texas, community member Martha e-mailed us wondering why the Mud Flap Gals were linked to by all the "biggies" and Maryscott O'Connor's My Left Wing was purged? Because the Mud Flap Gals don't challenge anything. They cover the bottom half of pop cult in a Me Talk Smutty Every Day, do-me-do-me-do-me! "feminism" kind of way. It's not threatening. There's no concern that a politician might be called out (unless abortion is under attack, there's little indication that the Mud Flap Gals even know the United States has a Congress). There's no chance that they will ever explore the topic of Iraq -- superficially or in depth -- the way O'Connor will. The Mud Flap Gals do the light dusting (apparently in tassles and g-string) and leave all the heavy lifting to actual women. They plan dance-offs in the "bars of NYC" -- it may not be Coyote, but it's Ugly. Tearing a page from the Gospel of Hugh Hefner, they reduce the concerns of women solely to birth control and abortion and sex. Linking to those types (and only those types) allow the 'boys' to play like they care about what women talk about -- so long as it's sex, sex, sex! They're like wordy Playboy centerfolds and no one need worry that their posts will go on any longer than a "Turn Ons & Turn Offs" sidebar.
When that happens that hurts women. It gives the impression that women can only write with a hint of nipple and it's as damaging as the 'victim of this week' column type of approach. Why aren't women featured more on the op-ed pages? Institutional sexism to be sure, but it's also true (check out some of our 'left' women at non-feminist magazines) that many bend over backwards to avoid addressing Iraq or anything weighty. That gives the impression that women can write sidebar topics, they can't tackle larger issues and, comedic columns aside, the expectation of a newspaper columnists is that they're going to tackle weighty issues.
Is it surprising to anyone that Nora Ephron's tackled the Iraq war (at The Huffington Post) more than Katha Pollitt? Only for those who fail to grasp that Pollitt's more and more cast herself as den mother to the Mud Flap Gals ("always learn from it!" which is frightening, in and of itself, for a woman her age).
So, to be fair to the boys, a lot of women work overtime to fit into the stereotypical roles alloted. They're the types who take a pass on Abu Ghraib until a spectator (female) shows up at a hearing with a book entitled C*nt. To answer Martha's question, someone like O'Connor who is seriously attempting to address what's going on in the world is just a little too scary.
If you've missed it, the White Straight Male tells you that a focus on anything other than the three things that define them is "identity politics." (Because, in their thinking, White Straight Male is universal and the measurement.) So the intentional highlighting of the Mud Flap Gals by boys with political blogs while purging O'Connor is part of the same process. "Oh, look what the girls are talking about now! They sure are funny! And sexy!" A woman like O'Connor scares the hell out of them.
If you can reduce women's point of view to nothing more than sex, sex, sex with birth control and abortion sometimes tossed in, you can futher the idea that women are a "niche group" -- most importantly, you reduce feminism to sex and reproductive issues. If you're peddling the myth that that the universal is White Straight Male, you don't want to ever recognize the complexities of feminism or that feminism is very much a world view that encompasses much more than sex.
I'm tired being smooth
I'm tired being nice
I'm tired of making it sound all pretty
I want you gone like the wind
I want you gone like the wind
"I Want You Gone Too" can be found on Holly Near's latest release Show Up. (The song is written by Laura Love -- not Laura Nyro as two articles in the mainstream press have already falsely claimed -- with addition words by Near.) Along with the Dixie Chicks' "Not Ready To Make Nice," it strikes us an anthem.
A real left would be rising up in response to some of the nonsense that's taken hold in the last decades. (And a real left is.) But some of the left and 'left' have done a lot to enable the rise of the right-wing. They've pushed stereotypes or accepted them.
Gays and lesbians can be tossed on the woodpile and used for the purpose that resulted in the term Coulter used. Women can be reduced to sexual play things (and some will gladly play with themselves if it means attention). People of color can be rendered invisible. There's a 'larger' battle to fight. That's what the DLC (in all of it's Slimey Rosenberg forms) has long pushed. That's what the supposed progressive males (like a guest on Democracy Now! last week) push when they hail an outmoded family structure that less and less reflects the American people. In their more idealistic moments, some would put forward that they're tossing out the bathwater and saving the baby.
But what's really happening is that they're endorsing the right-wing's extremely limited view of the world. They aren't combatting it. They'll gladly argue that John Edwards is not gay (we didn't know that was even up for debate). They'll grab the homophobia in a remark by Coulter and rush to endorse homophobia by failing to call out hate speech, accepting the stereotype, and popularizing it even further.
What does that have to do with the illegal war? It's the same sort of calculation that allows them to go along. It's a path of no resistance. It takes you to the same destination but you get there a wee bit slower due to the asides and footnotes.
Why wasn't the gang rape and murder of Abeer called out? We heard a lot of talk last week about how 'the blogs' had led on the Alberto Gonzales scandal (that goes up to the White House).
Well, if true, could the blogs not have led on Abeer?
They might have if they gave a damn. But Abeer was bathwater. They've spent years now accepting the right-wing's unquestioning and uncritical embrace of the military, hiding behind it. They didn't, in November 2000, call out the notion put foward that not all voters were equal in a democracy. While votes went uncounted, while African-Americans were targeted at polling places, while a laughable ballot was accepted as "fair," they rushed to adopt the right-wing's talking point that military ballots deserved special status. They didn't call Joe Lieberman out for tossing the recount on Meet the Press by saying that all military ballots deserved to be counted.
It didn't matter if the ballot arrived by the deadline, it didn't matter if it followed the rules, it didn't matter if it had a postmark, count them all!
Like Baby Cries A Lot, Lieberman was pushing "special status" for 'service.' The last time a foreign country has attacked US soil was Pearl Harbor. We don't believe Iraq is a "noble cause" or that the nation's interest are "served" in that illegal war. We regret that anyone's been ordered over there and believe that all the deaths are a tragedy brought on by the crimes of the Bully Boy.
But when the right planted their jingoistic flags, the left and 'left' was more concerned about moving the flags over a little for their own comfort than in questioning the very premise being put forth. After you've wrapped yourself repeatedly around the crotch of the military, it's not very easy to call out US soldiers who gang raped and murdered.
So Abeer becomes the bath water, the one not defended, the one ignored. A lot's made of Dan Rather's enlistment speech on David Letterman but the truth is so many of the left and 'left' have made similar comments and acted from a similar premise.
The right-wing steering the conversation (and staking out the territory that too many willingly venture out onto) believes "Might makes right." They dismiss issues that question that notion whether it's the historical genocide of Native Americans or whether it's what's taking place in Iraq today.
So the rapes and murders in Iraq are things to ignore (the mainstream press tends to help out there frequently). And they utilize the slogan created to clamp down on dissent.
They accept the attacks by arguing fine points (or, in the case of 'friend of Susan Sontag' AlterPunk, deeming the piece in The New Yorker Sontag wrote that resulted in the trashing of Sontag "objectionable"). They fail to reject the very premise being advanced by the right.
And they've done that for decades now. The revisionist "We could have won! Our hands were tied!" b.s. about Vietnam wasn't just put forward and popularize by the right-wing. The war on Vietnam was illegal and damaging. That, by the eighties, this very obvious fact could be in dispute goes to the soft underbelly that's passed for far too much of the left. To argue that those serving in Vietnam were misused by their government is one thing, to put forward falsehoods about the very nature of that war is completely different and it's not "supporting" anything but lies and futher illegal wars.
That's one way the US ended up in another illegal war so quickly. The revisionism was pushed to overcome the "Vietnam syndrome." And it was very successful but only because so many refused to refute it. Just as they refuse to refute Iraq today. The right's not the only one arguing strategy and avoiding the issue of the nature of the illegal war itself.
And too many voices who could be strong voices are happy to address any other topic in the world except Iraq. Take the Pelosi measure that just passed in the House and ask yourselves why the left is supposed to applaud the privatization of Iraqi oil? (The bill's not worth applauding for many reasons, we're focusing on that aspect.) That's a left principle?
Well it is when you fail to explore the realities of Iraq -- when you fail to tell people what's really in the bill or what really happens in the illegal war. But when the left and 'left' reduce their current critique of Iraq to "too many US soldiers have died," that's what passes for a left critique.
One of the ones who was right about the illegal war, though AlterPunk didn't choose to include her (or any hers in his first column on the issue) was Molly Ivins. With Ivins' passing, if you thought the people publicly lamenting her death were going to pick up the torch and explore the illegal war, you learned quickly that was not to be the case.
There is a strong likelihood that Bully Boy will declare war on Iran before he leaves office (either because his term expires or because he's impeached). That's only possible due to the fact that so many who self-present as left have enlisted in the service of the military. Not in support of US service members, in support of the US military. Support of US service members would be calling out what was done to Abeer and her family -- silence indicates that you find it the norm and not worthy of comment.
Feminism, true feminism, always rejected the "Might Makes Right" sloganeering. Which is why feminism called out the military industrial complex (as well as other issues). It's a good thing, for Bully Boy's aims, that so many 'feminists' today are entralled with consumerism and pop culture. "Stab" attacked Gloria Steinem and Jane Fonda last year (and Democracy Now! broadcast that shit this year) and it was shocking not only because she was basing her attack of GreenStone Media on what she'd learned from the Idiot Bellafante, it was shocking because she honestly seemed to think that either she or Katha Pollitt had, in any way, used their voices productively in 2006. Let's be really clear because apparently a marker needs to be set, if you're a feminist or claim to be and you've not written or said one damn word about Abeer, your claim to feminism is questionable.
2006 was Pollitt's worst year as a columnist (and 2007, BE HONEST, isn't shaping up to be a marked improvement). Stab seemed to think the fact that Pollitt was cantankerous qualified for feminism. We'd argue there have been as many grouchy women as men throughout history and an ill disposition is hardly feminism (but it does push a right-wing myth, way to go, Stab!). Abeer was the marker. Are you silent or do you call it out? (Off Our Backs and Robin Morgan called it out strongly in 2006. Though Jane Fonda's 2007 speech wasn't featured on Democracy Now! -- it was apparently more important to hear from Bill Moyers -- she also called out the war crimes against Abeer.)
And I feel the witch in my veins
I feel the mother in my shoe
I feel the scream in my soul
The blood as I sing the ancient blue
They burned in the millions
I still smell the fire in my grandma's hair
The war against women rages on
Beware of the fairytale
Sombody's mama, somebody's daughter
-- "Somebody's Jail" written by Holly Near, Show Up
That's feminism. Silence about a 14-year-old girl being gang raped and murdered by US soldiers isn't. Silence about Madre's report isn't feminism.
But before we get there, we've got a non-feminist friend who's agreed to read over this and he cautions that the very boys who will write their fiery e-mails have probably heard too much about feminism and are "on the verge of tuning out."
Now they're interested. A number of the boys are big supporters of Bill Clinton. His policies aren't the focus of this article. But the treatment of him is very much about how the right-wing demonized women and installed Bully Boy -- with the help of the boys. The boys are very aggressive as they maintain that it won't happen again, what was done to Clinton (or Al Gore) but, despite writing about little else for years, they still don't appear to grasp what went down.
They can tell you incidents. They can tell you smears. They can defend Clinton against smears, but they're not too interested in refuting the smears or addressing what the basis was.
Bill Clinton was "soft." That was the right's easiest critique. The town halls were ridiculed as much as Hillary Clinton's listening tour in 2000. Not for whether or not a real exchange was taking place but because the idea of listening was something to be ridiculed and dismissed. It was "soft." It was "womanly." They couldn't have a Bully Boy who prides himself on ignoring the people he's supposed to be serving without first attacking the very notion of listening.
In refuting the "soft" claims (which included that Clinton was "womanly" in his desires), some rushed, in real time, and some rush, currently, to refute that Clinton isn't in any way, "soft." They don't challenge the premise, they accept that a leader -- a real one -- doesn't listen. (Clinton may have accepted it as well as evidenced by his claim that the American people prefer someone who is "strong but wrong" to 'weak but right' -- a belief that appears to be driving Hillary Clinton's current presidential campaign.) The right truly has engaged in a war of attrition and when our voices have been so weak that they've rushed to refute the charges while accepting the premise behind the attacks, that goes a long way to explaining how the US ended up at war with Iraq and may next add Iran to the list.
The "sixties" brought forward many developments and have been under attack ever since. When those advances aren't defended but accepted because some 'brave' voice considers same-sex sexuality 'icky,' or thinks people of color need to stop 'complaining,' or think the macho high they've lived on for years is somehow reflective of the country, the whole nation takes a giant leap backward.
Last week, a number of us heard an interview (that wasn't about Iraq though it was promoted that way, even in the introduction to the interview) and heard about how Ann Richards was tagged as a lesbian by the Bully Boy in his campaign to become governor of Texas. It was good that it could be addressed even though the person bringing it up seemed to have an aversion to lesbians judging by his statements and apparent discomfort (one wonders whether he grasped he was being interview by an openly gay man and an out lesbian?). Possibly the discomfort accounted for his errors. He seemed to suggest a whispering campaign took place. He laughably noted that this was in "coffee houses" in East Texas. It was in East Texas. It wasn't in coffee house. (The only real coffee house in most of East Texas at that time was run by a woman divorcing a Texas rep then campaigning for office and denying that they were divorcing.) It wasn't whispered, it was openly discussed. It was leafleted. Church parking lots and some parking lots at Trade Days in Canton, Texas were leafeted with a page proclaiming Ann Richards a lesbian. The community has many Texas members and we heard this story long before the guest discussed it (poorly) on the radio last week.
That's how it works, a woman is a lesbian and a man is girly. Coulter tried to up the formula and, the more we think about the 'left' reaction, the more surprised we are since they apparently were unaware that the right has long attempted to portray Hillary Clinton as a lesbian (with plenty of hate speech tossed into their presentations). And how it's worked on the left and 'left' far too often is accept that premise (that, for instance, gay = bad) while denying it's true about whichever candidate this election cycle.
Last week, Friday, the Online, Latter Day Dylan was pushing Al Gore (again) and pimping so hard he was fawning over 'civility' and he scraped the bottom of the barrell. We heard about it in e-mails from Texas community members and Texas readers of this site. Ralph Hall was so courtly? Really because Online was the only one who saw it that way. Forget that Al Gore and Ralph Hall's politics often merged when both served in Congress, the idea of praising a man like Ralph Hall -- praise from what one called "The Democrat's Democrat" -- was shocking because of how ignorant it was.
It was ignorant. Ralph Hall has openly attacked the rights of gays and lesbians (their very existance from one 2002 interview that aired on KLTV). More importantly for Online Latter Day Dylan, the 'courtly' days were no where to be found before Bill Clinton was elected. Hall may have lathered it on about Gore last week but the reality is Hall didn't associate with the Democratic Party (which he was still a part of) during the 1992 campaign. In fact, he so undermined the campaign that one consultant had no qualms about telling a county headquarters to pull the sticks off Hall's yard signs and use them for Clinton-Gore yard signs when they ran out one weekend in September 1992.
Online Latter Day Dylan wrote: "The courtesy of [John] Warner and [Ralph] Hall recalled an earlier time in our politics, before the Inhofe wing of their party defined so much of modern Republicanism--and before the criminals of our 'mainstream press corps' began their long, ugly war on Gore's character." Well let's see, we're told that Hall distanced himself from the campaign, that he refused to show up at Ron Brown's much publicized appearance in Tyler, Texas, that, as we were told on the phone Saturday, "I couldn't begin to list everything he did to undermine the Clinton-Gore ticket," we'd prefer the free for all today because it's quite a bit more honest -- as was Hall's crossing over to the Republican Party when Bully Boy came to power.
But Mr. I'm Not Baking Cupcakes! because he's so serious about the current state of politics chooses to write about Hall. It has no basis in reality. It could have been written by Joe Klein -- and we'd suggest the next time the urge hits him, he go and bake cupcakes --because it's not concerned with reality, it's just concerned with tone. His fellow was warmly greeted and Online Latter Day Dylan felt the need to turn courtly. What a suiter.
But not helping the left. In fairness, the lack of support for the top of Hall's own party (then party) happened B.C. -- before Bill Clinton and Online Latter Day thinks the modern world began on or shortly before Bill Clinton became president. Regardless, he should be aware of statements Hall has repeatedly made such as this, "The country is at war. When the country is at war you need to support the president. Some of my fellow congressman have not been doing that." Still think he's courtly? Do most "courtly" people rush to defend the "right" of a 14-year-old girl to dance naked? Hall did that. He also brags about opposing every minimum wage proposal since he entered Congress. (If he had to work a real job and didn't have trips paid for by the likes of Jack Abramoff, he might feel differently.)
But Online Latter Day Dylan booted up that morning not to service the left, he did so to service Al Gore. Therefore, he could praise Ralph Hall, the same Ralph Hall who tars and feathers those in Congress who question (not just oppose, question) the illegal war.
Again, make some cupcakes next time, everyone will be a lot better off. That's the sort of crap that gets served up when you're pushing a personality (at all costs) and not addressing reality. Save your candidate (or former candidate) at all costs, regardless of what damage you do.
February 11th, we ran a feature entitled "Women in the military." While we're glad others have recently picked up the topic (even if they were weak ass about it like The New York Times), this is apparently another topic we're not supposed to spend too much time on. It can get a little more attention than Abeer (which isn't saying all that much -- if you missed it, there was a development last week -- another soldier confessed ), but not much.
Why don't they get picked up? Because too many have spent too long trying to prove their "bonafides" and too many are silent. We can get questioning of the way the battles are fought and "bravery" is supposed to be the few who question the war's legality. But from most, we get no discussions on the war itself, on what is actually happening, on the reality of the house raids, on the reality of the rapes, . . .
And while avoiding reality certainly allows the illegal war to drag on, it also makes it all the more likely that Iran moves from potential target to latest battlefield.
Returning to MADRE, they released a report "Promising Democracy, Imposing Theocracy: Gender-Based Violence and the US War on Iraq" (which can be read in full in PDF format or, by sections, in HTML) that didn't a great deal of attention, certainly not the attention it warranted.
(You can read C.I.'s commentaries: " Wednesday, section one ("Towards Gender Apartheid in Iraq") was noted, Thursday, section II, "Iraq's Other War: Imposing Theocracy Through Gender-Based." Section III is "The Rise of US-Backed Death Squads" was noted Friday, section four, "Violence Against Women Within Families" was noted Monday and yesterday part five is "Gender War, Civil War," part six is "Gender-Based Violence Against Men," and part seven "Violence Against Women in Detention"; and "Conclusion: Standing With Iraqi Women In A Time Of War.") The report makes it very clear that what's going on Iraq didn't just happen, it resulted not just from US intervention but from US planning. As women are targeted (especially professional women and lesbians), as they are raped, as they are murdered, where is the outcry? At this point, we might settle for just a raised eye brow.
But you can't have an outcry when so much of the left and the 'left' are bound and determined to go beyond empathy for US service members put on a battlefied as a result of lies and become the biggest cheerleaders for the military industrial complex you can find. We don't think they're all Hawks for the Left. We do think that due to the attrition on the part of the right, the continued assault, they've long ago given up. They'll fight 'til their dying breath for Al Gore but they're not able to use the same energy to preserve anything the left once stood for.