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April 29, 2006

This Shit Doesn’t Happen in a Void

Shakes here…

A topic about which I write with some frequency at my place is the role played by conservative media shills as conduit between conservative extremists and their mainstream representatives in the conservative movement, putting an acceptable sheen on radical turds and passing them along into the epicenter of movement thought. It’s one of the most important services provided on behalf of the increasingly socially radical GOP by the likes of Bill O’Reilly, Ann Coulter, Sean Hannity, and Michelle Malkin, and it’s the primary reason—even greater than their mendacity, their hubris, their general loathsomeness—that I despise them.

To wit: Via Paul the Spud, Michelle Malkin recently commenting on the Spanish National Anthem (non)issue, singing a refrain that has long been a standard in her collection of greatest hits: “Whose anthem, whose flag, whose country is it, anyway?” You’re only a patriot if you sing the National Anthem in English, dammit—a barely cleaned-up version of the the smugly issued, “This is America; speak English!” that gets barked at even people with thick accents (like my Scottish immigrant husband, whose native language is English) by xenophobic idiots who apparently don’t realize we are a nation of immigrants. Then, yesterday, President Bush on the same topic: “[T]he National Anthem ought to be sung in English. And I think people who want to be a citizen of this country ought to learn English, and they ought to learn to sing the National Anthem in English.”

“Learn how to speak English!”—a contemptuous shorthand for only English-speakers are real Americans—has been screamed at immigrants for decades by nationalistic tools. Malkin and her cohorts gussy it up a bit, and frame it as a “national security” and “economic” issue associated with undocumented (mostly Hispanic) workers. Bush and Co. turn it into a policy issue. Suddenly, my grumpy old neighbor’s muttered “Damn furners!” has become the basis for a federal initiative. It’s not that there aren’t legitimate security concerns to be considered, for example, but the real impetus of the policy is turning out the base vote by appealing to prejudice.

Yesterday, I spent nearly the entire day writing about a case in a predominantly white Houston suburb in which two white teens—at least one of whom is known as a white supremacist—beat, sodomized, stabbed, and poured bleach on a Hispanic teen while shouting racial epithets, because, they allege, he had “tried to kiss a Hispanic 12-year-old girl at a party,” a claim investigators have not yet confirmed. The teenage victim remains in critical condition, hovering between life and death, after his attackers kicked the PVC pipe they had used to sodomize him so far up into his body that he was left with “major internal injuries and organ damage.”

Investigators are suggesting that because the two perpetrators were using drugs and alcohol, a fight was simply inevitable and race isn’t a factor—even in spite of their shouting racial slurs during the attack and at least one having a history of parading around with swastika-emblazoned flags through his neighborhood on Martin Luther King Day.

And all I can say is: Get real. This shit doesn’t happen in a void.

When we read that nearly 20% of American high school students experience physical assault on the basis of sexual orientation, and a doctor who performs abortions—and was already shot by a radical anti-choicer—has become the target of a campaign to hold him “accountable for his actions that have caused untold misery and loss of life,” and a Hispanic teen is beaten and raped within an inch of his life by two white teens as they hurled racial epithets at him, we must necessarily consider what forces legitimize such actions in the minds of the perpetrators. And we need look no further than the GOP and their ever-so-helpful message enablers, as each incident is representative of one of their key wedge issues: gay marriage, abortion, and immigration.

When real people are used as fodder to garner votes born of bias, those real people are inevitably endangered. Politicians and their well-paid water carriers cannot continually demonize a group of people and then claim naivety that the fuckwit homophobes, radical anti-choicers, and racists on whose votes they are dependent for their continued supremacy actually treat those groups as demons, monsters under the bed who threaten our very way of life. We should expect nothing less for a disingenuous wedge issue designed by the likes of Karl Rove to exploit the prejudices of the GOP base to translate into action that leaves victims of policy also victims of violence.

The GOP, now so inextricably dependent upon bigotry to put them (and keep them) in office, is no longer a legitimate political party. They are a collection of hatemongers who overtly seek to convince poor white bigots that they are privileged, and that their privilege can be used to oppress the weak, convincing them with the help of their loyal enablers that life would be better if only gays and feminists and racial minorities weren’t around. They use these people’s hatred of others to mask the real reasons life sucks for poor whites—tax breaks for the rich, rewarding companies who offshore, largesse toward corporations designed by lobbyists at the expense of Americans’ pocketbooks. As long as the gays, feminists, and racial minorities stand between the GOP and their poor base with targets on their backs, the GOP will continue to hide behind them, shouting, “Ready, aim, fire!”

This shit doesn’t happen in a void.

There used to exist a gap (some might argue quite a small one; I think it was bit greater than that) between extremist conservative elements and the insitutional GOP, but a bridge has been built by those willing to transfer and legitimize extremist thought, to turn prejudice into policy. On 24 hour cable news networks, on talk radio, in newspapers, in blogs…they serve as channel and filter, moving so much fetid sewer water through until it comes out drinkable on the other side for those who are desperately thirsty and not especially picky.

O’Reilly, Coulter, Hannity, Malkin—we often treat them as jokes, but they are not amusing. They are translators of a vicious language that would not have a place in the public sphere were it not for their careful redesign.

------------------

David Neiwert at Orcinus regularly delves into this topic with passion and eloquence, which is why he is one of my favorite bloggers (even though I nearly always manage to spell his name wrong). If you’re not a regular reader, check him out.

April 29, 2006 | Permalink

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» http://www.nielsenhayden.com/electroside/archives/2006_04.html#007490 from Sidelights
"This Shit Doesn't Happen In a Void"... [Read More]

Tracked on Apr 29, 2006 8:39:45 PM

» http://www.nielsenhayden.com/electroside/archives/2006_04.html#007490 from Sidelights
"This Shit Doesn't Happen In a Void"... [Read More]

Tracked on Apr 29, 2006 8:40:47 PM

» Bush Opposes Singing Anthem in Spanish from Unpartisan.com Political News and Blog Aggregator
President Bush said Friday the national anthem should be sung in English #151; not Spanish & [Read More]

Tracked on Apr 29, 2006 11:33:07 PM

» More on GOP intolerance from Thunder Down Country
One of Ezra Kleins weekend guest bloggers writes something similar to what I was trying to say in this post, only more eloquently. Learn how to speak English!a contemptuous shorthand for only English-speakers are real American... [Read More]

Tracked on Apr 29, 2006 11:37:49 PM

Comments

About that void, thing: there is a void, in that there are few, uncorrupted voices of the center and left, in the mainstream media.

It's fine to complain about how Coulter or O'Reilly exploit their audiences or facilitate hate and stealth class warfare, but ultimately the "void" here is the absence of liberals and moderates speaking to those same audiences. Some one has to go to Kansas and Oklahoma and South Carolia and Texas and the backwoods of Pennsylvania and Ohio, and confront NOT O'Reilly, but his audience (!), and tell that audience some home truths about how they have been betrayed, and about how their anger and resentment has been used to manipulate them and steal their money.

Many of those pundits posing as "Democrats" are not, and some of those, who are not posing, are chosen for their ineffectiveness.

Media consolidation, pursued avidly by the Republican Right, has resulted in a monolithic mainstream Media, where objective information is squeezed completely out of view, so that those, who want to live undisturbed behind a wall of prejudice and ignorance can do so.

Media criticism, appeals to journalistic standards or corporate ethics (now there's an oxymoron) are not cutting it, once you are off Blog Island, and out and about where the vast majority of American voters live, where 97% of eyeballs and ears are monopolized by the corporate right-wing Media.

Moderates, liberals, progressives, Democrats need to start thinking seriously about an agenda of institution-building, which will result in a diversity of views, and a serious competitive challenge to the mainstream credibility of, say, Fox News and CNN and MSNBC, all of which are conduits for right-wing views and selective information, often exclusively or unchallenged or very weakly challenged. Ditto for the newspapers and networks and radio, including NPR and PBS.

And, we ought to be ready, as well, with an agenda of slice-and-dice antitrust and communications policies, designed to utterly destroy the mainstream Media Empires.

I am utterly disgusted by depraved violence, and maybe Coulter and Malkin are facilitating such violence, but that's not the beginning or the end of the problem with right-wing dominance of Media. A substantial fraction, maybe a majority of voters, remember the Clinton Administration as a cesspool of scandal, and haven't a clue as to the extent of Republican corruption -- that crazy worldview is of a piece with the crazy worldview, which sees nearly lethal violence as a teenage prank.

Posted by: Bruce Wilder | Apr 29, 2006 6:53:48 PM

Great comment, Bruce - absolutely on target.

One thing I can't stand about the media and its conservative shills is the blatant hypocrisy. Any Democrat, liberal or progressive that must speak on TV is harassed by the media to apologize or explain the remarks of others, such as Michael Moore. However, Ann Coulter can openly talk about killing journalists at the NYT or murdering Supreme Court justices, and everyone laughs it off. I also can't stand how the media pretends that Michael Moore = Ann Coulter. Whether you agree or disagree with Michael Moore, he hasn't openly advocated the murder of anyone.

Posted by: Unstable Isotope | Apr 29, 2006 7:26:50 PM

Shouldn't we first ask ourselves, "What are the root causes of their hate?" Shouldn't we seek to understand it and deal with those root causes?

Posted by: Adam Herman | Apr 30, 2006 12:12:10 AM

Nice philosophical point, Adam.
Try this on for size : hate is a tool to be used to gain power. Sick ? Yep.

I'm going to lose points by going on the wackjob extreme viewpoint. I see too many similarities between current policies and historical Nazism for comfort. Propaganda, vicious hate rants, warmongering and warmaking, influence peddling, rampant graft and corruption, domestic spying ... you get the drift.Having Bush's grandpa as a great poo-bah financing Germany's overthrow as a democracy puts the icing on that cake.

I think it may be time to stop thinking in terms of a bad case of sniffles for American democracy. If it is in fact a case of full-blown flu, extremism is not only warranted, but mandatory.
People on Digby's thread seem much more alert to the idea that something's seriously amiss.

Posted by: opit | Apr 30, 2006 1:01:30 AM

20% of highschoolers are attacked for their sexual orientation? Surely you meant 20% of gay highschoolers, yes?

Posted by: pantomimeHorse | Apr 30, 2006 1:54:10 AM

Down with Bush and the white oppressors! Power to the brown people of the world! ¡Sí, Se Puede!

Posted by: Guillermo | Apr 30, 2006 9:56:12 AM

"20% of highschoolers are attacked for their sexual orientation? Surely you meant 20% of gay highschoolers, yes?"

Perhaps a more accurate description should be "attacked for their sexual orientation or perceived sexual orientation". When I was at school - lo! these many years ago - there was an enormous amount of homophobic bullying going on, and it wasn't only confined to those who identified as LGBT (which would have been, let's see now, oh, about 0). It was used to harrass any child who didn't conform: any girl who wasn't sufficiently "pretty", or who didn't have a boyfriend, or who turned a boy down, or didn't have sex with boys, or was athletic, or wasn't athletic enough, or wasn't cool enough, or was a "brain", or wasn't enough of a brain; any boy who wasn't aggressive enough, didn't play sport enthusiastically enough, hung around with girls, liked/was good at any given class (except the sciences), wasn't athletic enough, was too fat/thin, was too shy, was good at/liked the "wrong" music/instruments/bands, showed any interest in the drama club, wasn't part of the "right" clique, had the "wrong" hairdo, didn't have a girlfriend, didn't have/claim to have had sex with a girl, was too "nice", wasn't given to making homophobic comments, or stood up for kids who were being bullied. As you can see, that was pretty much every child in the school who, at some point, got at least verbal abuse; and a proportion of kids (usually boys) were beaten up by other boys because it had been decided that they were gay. And this was a nice, reasonably middle-class school.

Posted by: Ka | Apr 30, 2006 12:33:04 PM

all this frothing at the keys about what an american isn't simply begs the question, which i haven't seen answered concretely: who is an american? and why?

until you can answer that question, your rants are simply liberal screed...

Posted by: js | Apr 30, 2006 12:43:24 PM

"Homophobia isn't there to keep homosexuals in line. It's there to keep everyone else in line." - Joanna Russ

Posted by: Avedon | Apr 30, 2006 12:52:38 PM

English is an immigrant language. It was invented in another country and is only the dominant language here because a bunch of immigrant didn't bother to acclimate themselves to American culture and learn the language of their new country.

Now, if it is bad for immigrants to come into another country and then stay in enclaves where most people retain foreign customs and speak foreign languages, then, hey we need to stop speaking english and disband most of our cities, because that's exactly how we got to be the country we are today.

If, on the other hand, failing to acclimate to your host country and failing to learn their language is not always bad, then we can't fault spanish-speaking immigrants for speaking spanish.

There's just no coherent way to support this "English first!" bull.

Posted by: Christopher | Apr 30, 2006 2:30:08 PM

Can we also agree that demonization of the business and investor class is bad?

Posted by: Adam Herman | May 1, 2006 7:53:50 AM

Apart from a few conversations, over the years, my image of American schools comes from American entertainment media. And from my British experience I know how misleading that sort of thing can be. I don't expect the new headmaster at the local school to be a bat-winged alien planning to use the kids as a computer cluster to crack the Root password for the Universe.

But I do get a consistent image of bullying to force conformity, and an intolerance for the non-standard that isn't just about expecting people to meet some minimum level of achievement. But there's a chicken/egg problem here. Does the image come from a reality, or does it encourage a reality.

Either way, the sort of attacks that're going on, not just in schools, and the reactions they get, aren't just going to vanish if there's a change in government. Start looking at what was happening in Reagan's day, what was being put in front of today's parents when they were at school.

Posted by: Dave Bell | May 1, 2006 9:08:58 AM

I can't believe it, my co-worker just bought a car for $67074. Isn't that crazy!

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