Friday, May 04, 2018

Right-Wing Snowflakes


Laura and Milo

Ever hear of Milo Yiannopoulos? Don't worry, no one else has either... unless they watch Fox News commentators as a lifestyle. Last week Talia Lavin wrote a piece about Milo for the Village Voice (I've written about him too so I won't remark on what a waste of time it is.) The adventures of Milo-ism, she pointed out, include how he finds it "impossible... to go out for lunch in most major cities," which, she continued "speaks to an intellectual barrenness at the core of Trump-era conservatism. Having found themselves in political power, but nonetheless without complete cultural dominance, these conservatives must manufacture a sense of powerlessness."
Milo Yiannopoulos would like you to know that he is “Dangerous”-- that was the title of his abortive nonfiction debut. Milo Yiannopoulos is selling T-shirts that say, “Everyone who hates me is ugly,” and, “Guantanamo Bay Waterboard Instructor.” A Milo Yiannopoulos fan once shot a protestor at one of his speaking engagements in the stomach, causing a critical injury. Milo Yiannopoulos would like you to be very indignant that he was recently heckled at a Manhattan bar.
I'll bet even fewer people have ever heard of Kevin Williamson, although maybe they know another Kevin Williamson from elementary school. This one helps highlight "the hollow core of Trump-era conservatism" Talia is portraying. Early in April "Williamson lost a columnist gig at the Atlantic after less than two weeks on the job, when certain of his past inflammatory comments resurfaced. He’s managed to parlay this tribulation into thousands of published words about his own silencing. Thus far, by my calculation, his columns this week alone make up a substantial portion of the word count of the Book of Job. Right wing publicists Ross Douthat, Conor Friedersdorf, Erick Erickson, Noah Rothman, et al share "an insistent refrain: this is, if not authoritarianism, then its prelude; it is 'chilling'; it is a flexing of the muscles of a fledgling despotism; it is a Soviet-style censorship regime." Don't be sorry you've never heard of Williamson or his tempest in a teapot.
You could be forgiven, amid all this furor, for forgetting that Williamson was fired for stating-- publicly, repeatedly, and emphatically-- that women who have abortions should be punished by execution. That is, women who have had abortions-- fully one-quarter of American women-- are a criminal class, and some portion of them, after being convicted, should be publicly hung by the neck until dead.

There are, of course, a multiplicity of ironies here-- that a man so blithely willing to strip women of their rights is so avid in defense of his own; that the inventors of the terms snowflake and triggered overheat so easily at a professional slight; etc.-- but at its heart, what arises when one surveys a media landscape pitted with Williamson hot takes is an emptiness at the heart of conservative rhetoric, and an attendant need to create victimization where none, in fact, exists.

In the absence of material oppression of any kind, one wonders what motivates conservatives to cant toward martyrdom-- to seek, perpetually, a marginalization that cannot be measured. Recent research suggests that the Trump-era right suffers from “status anxiety”: to wit, a fear not of losing their ability to speak, but rather that their speech will become part of a chorus of equals. In expressing a groundless fear of being silenced, they reveal their true fear-- that of no longer being in a position to dominate the national conversation.

To an extent I empathize: It is difficult to maintain a sense of utter righteousness, difficult to feel the great maw of the white page, without a real claim to struggle. There are those who say that creative generation only comes through struggle; that forward momentum is possible only when obstacles arise to be smashed; that only a rough road can lengthen one’s stride, and straighten one’s back, and lead one forward to brighter lands. So it is not without some sympathy that I look to the nation’s conservatives who, finding themselves in possession of all three branches of government, and a plurality of state governments too, find themselves so bereft of struggle that they must invent it. What I cannot forgive is the laziness of the central metaphors, which return again and again to the well of twentieth-century authoritarianism, without ever pausing to consider how transparently ridiculous these metaphors become.

Thus we find Laura Ingraham called a Twitter boycott of her prime-time cable news show "Stalinist." One need not be a student of Russian history to recognize that Stalin's primary methods of punishment were not bitchy tweets, and the Soviet Union did not, historically speaking, have much of an advertising industry to boycott in the first place. Stalin tended to line his opponents up and shoot them. He tended to exile them to Siberia, or confiscate their grain, under the guise of “dekulakization,” until they starved to death. Laura Ingraham lives in what the Washington Post described as a “gated Northern Virginia mansion.” But it is entirely possible that she avoids eating grain (too many carbs).

There have been so many column inches in the New York Times and the Washington Post excoriating college students for protesting speakers that one might justifiably think this is the most pressing problem facing the United States educational system. (Never mind that many of these speakers were invited precisely to attract such a response, and the concomitant editorials, an ouroborous of specious victimization. And please, ignore the teachers’ strikes erupting in multiple states, and the fact that many public school students cannot even afford pencils.)
Talia reminds her gentle readers that there is no "lacuna of genuine problems to address in the United States of 2018. We are a country of patriarchal domination, of appalling racial injustice, of rising seas and falling wages. The problem with the Williamsons (and newspaper conservative columnists) of the world is that they have willingly chosen to turn a blind eye to what exists. Faced with the proverbial widow and orphan, conservative ideology posits stripping them of food aid. Faced with injustice in the courts, the conservative instinct is to embrace a status quo that perpetuates it. In an era in which conservatives find themselves winning-- with officials like Scott Pruitt and Betsy DeVos stripping this country of onerous regulations that do things like protect the air, or transgender students-- I am almost disappointed to find these would-be heralds unable to trumpet their success. It turns out that the rhetoric of celebration, of triumph, is too one-note for these wordsmiths. In service of obscuring the oppression they ignore, they must create one of their own.

And this is mirrored in right-wing members of Congress as well, of course. Katie Porter, who's running for the Orange County seat occupied by garden variety Republican Mimi Walters told us that "Rep. Walters is spending her millions of corporate PAC money dollars to convince her constituents that she is standing up for women in DC. Rep. Walters may claim to be standing up for women, but in her 20+ years in elected office, Mimi Walters has repeatedly stood with Paul Ryan and Donald Trump in their efforts to defund Planned Parenthood and ban a woman's right to choose."

Lillian Salerno has her runoff on May 22 before she'll have to face GOP robot Pete Sessions in Dallas. "And deep in the heart of Texas is a worst-case offender in Pete Sessions, operating with a seemingly mindless loyalty to party over constituents in a state that many argue is a non-voting blue state that presents as red when it's represented in DC. Arguably one of their most powerful representatives doesn't even reside in the state, only coming in and out to chastise its citizens for not knowing how to listen as he rubber stamps on behalf of special interests that prop up the systems of oppression that the state can't seem to maneuver its way out of with these cronies like these at the helm."

Paul Clements is the progressive opposition to Fred Upton in southwest Michigan this cycle. "The fundamental political issue for America," he offered, "is increasing economic inequality-- most of the benefits of our economic growth going to the wealthy, due to a corrupt political system creating a rigged economy. The second issue is we are moving in the wrong direction on rights-- to live without hunger, for fair pay, for women to control their bodies, to equal treatment under the law (not policemen shooting you) … voting rights, equality for LGBTQ persons, and immigrant rights. The third issue is care for the environment, particularly major action on climate change, but also against despoliation for profit, and so all can enjoy nature. While Trump avidly promotes backsliding, the standard conservative response, which Fred Upton exemplifies, is in public to narrow all issues to minor steps and bland sentiments, and then to vote to enable Trump, corporate donors, and more backsliding. As long as Republicans can divert attention from the big questions they can win. Let’s not let that happen."

Jenny Marshall is taking on Trump rubber stamp Virginia Foxx in northwest North Carolina. "Foxx," she said, "is the epitome of right wing conservatism. Her world view is so narrow and selfish that I am truly shocked that she gets re-elected over and over again. She has voted against every pro-environmental bill that has come up, vowed to abolish the Department of Education and wants to get rid of the free lunch program yet she claims her values are American values. I disagree. To truly live up to American values we must ensure that everyone has the opportunity for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. This means building equity into a system that lacks it, empowering communities that have been silenced and investing in our future now.

Tom Guild is running for the Oklahoma City centered 5th congressional district. He told us that "Steve Russell received word of the first two females qualifying as Army Rangers with a call for an investigation into whether the test requirements had been watered down to unfairly help the women pass the required tests to become Rangers. He remained silent when Donald Trump equated demonstrators in Charlottesville who protested the Nazis and White Supremacists and their taunts of 'no Jew will take my place' accompanied by many ugly virulent racists acts and rhetoric, with the Nazis and Klan members. We heard only the sound of crickets from Russell when Mr. Trump said there were “good people” in the group protesting racism and those promoting racism in the Nazi and KKK contingents in Virginia. He supports and votes for budget cuts for the SNAP program that feeds millions of children and low income single parents. His campaign scoops up hundreds of thousands of dollars in corporate, special interest, and PAC contributions. His only relevant audience are those with God’s unlisted phone number who can give big bucks to his campaign. He is in the pocket of fossil fuels companies who pollute our air and water, and do permanent continuous damage to our planet. He supports oil company puppet Scott Pruitt who has the ethics of a snake and never misses an opportunity to visit great damage on our planet. He follows a policy of benign neglect regarding public education, enabling Betsy DeVos to further her quest to make education available only to those born with a platinum spoon in their mouths. Clearly as Mark Twain quipped long ago, “No man’s life, liberty, or property is safe while the legislature is in session.” Certainly Twain hit the mark, particularly if Russell is a member of the legislature. The top .01% is coddled and catered to by Russell. His cut, cut, cut…no matter what philosophy regarding programs that help working people, the middle class, and those who need a hand up, is designed to favor the overlords at every juncture. Despite his claims of charitable Christianity, he missed the part of the Bible where Jesus said, as you do unto the least of these, you do unto me. His actions and rhetoric are tragic for the people of Oklahoma and our beloved America."

Goal ThermometerKara Eastman is the progressive Democrat running for Congress in Omaha for the seat conservative Don Bacon is sitting in. "The current representative for the Nebraska Second," she told us with specificity, "has voted 97.1%  of the time with Trump. As a member of the climate caucus, he has said he does not believe that climate change is caused by humans. He is in favor of taking away healthcare from his constituents. He also supports big government regulations for women’s reproductive health. It is time for a leader in NE-02 who will stand up for the residents in the district. We need someone who has seen the positive impact that environmental protections have on children here. We deserve to have leaders who protect women, children and working families. We need someone who is listening to residents in the district and fighting for them."

Lisa Brown is the progressive Democrat running in eastern Washington in the district occupied by 4th highest-ranking Republican in the House, a Ryan rubber stamp. "She told its this morning that "so-called 'fiscal conservatives,' like Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers, vote for a 1.5 trillion dollar tax plan for the top 1% , then brazenly call for balanced budget amendments and cuts to food assistance and the social safety net programs. She lauds 'work requirements' for food stamps though 3 counties in her district have double digit rates of unemployment."

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At 6:08 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You whiffed at the obvious one here:

Wrt Williamson's "...women who have abortions should be punished by execution." The primary irony is that he, who is "pro life", advocates killing. The other ironies exist, but this one is the one you should be stressing.


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