Thursday, October 29, 2015

Don't Act Dumb

Few things prove white privilege quite like a racist Halloween costume. It's not just the costume's concept, but the dishonest defense afterwards. The wearer knows in advance that it is going to offend people - that's why they think it's cute. So why do they act surprised when people get offended?

Are they surprised that there are social consequences now? Probably not because there has been push back about this for years. Indeed, here is Jet magazine criticizing Joan Crawford for doing a song in black face back in 1954. Of course, whites were a lot more insulated from criticism back then. In fact, that was the point - hitting those who cannot hit back. Well, now minorities can and racists say it is sad and unfair.

Moreover, I imagine a lot of these people whined about "political correctness run amok" even before they got their 15 minutes on the news. So that is another reason not to buy their surprise.

Likewise, prefacing a racist statement with the words "This is going to make some people mad, but -" is the new "I'm not a racist, but -" The speaker is setting the stage by suggesting the response. Logically, mock shock is the only kind of shock the speaker can follow up with when the audience does not respond with universal approval. That is unless he or she is a complete moron with the memory of housefly.

In short, the clueless excuse is past its expiration date. The costume isn't cute and your innocent act isn't cute. What really shocks you - if you are shocked at all - is that you could not handle the blow back.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Womprat Love

It has been quite a week for political geeks.

Easily, the biggest geek event this week was the release of the new Star Wars trailer. It introduces two new heroes; but to the outrage of racists, neither is a white guy. Said racists have declared that this is advocating “white genocide” despite a) the new heroine being white and b) the return of most of the original white cast members. Update: Harrison Ford is still Caucasian, albeit a bit grizzled. I checked.

And since Lando Calrissian is not in the trailer and Mace Windu is dead, this likely makes the new hero the token black guy in this trilogy. Nevertheless, the racists see this as an unprecedented new intrusion which ruins the franchise – as if Ewoks and Jar-Jar Binks had not already accomplished that.

Likewise, these racists had similarly missed the fact that the storm troopers in Star Wars are a cross between klansmen and, well, storm troopers. If the standard issue armor was too subtle, the snow trooper armor should have been an additional hint. What do they need to see it? The Confederate battle flag? Also, the Empire's black uniforms look like they were designed by Hugo Boss.

So what is their brilliant strategy? How will they resist this mongrel, alien invasion? Why, by duplicating the immense success of the Mad Max: Fury Road boycott, of course! Men's Rights Activists (MRAs) epically failed to grasp that the Mad Max movies had critiqued toxic masculinity and blasted the film as “feminist propaganda.” Of course, their campaign actually backfired spectacularly.

But that was not the only reactionary reinterpretation of Star Wars this week. As if on cue, Neo-Con pundit Bill Kristol defended the Empire as a desirable form of government. Because of course he did. Sure, they are a fascist regime that casually practices genocide, but that does not make them the bad guys.* But, hey, at least he knows what side he is on and is honest about it. That's more than I can say for National Review editor Jonah Goldberg.

And today I hear that Conservatives are upset that Captain America is now a black progressive. Steve Rogers, the WWII era Cap., is retiring and handing the shield over to his partner in fighting crime, the Falcon, who had fought alongside Cap since 1969. Neither of these things should surprise.

First, in comics, there is ample precedent for white characters passing their mantle to black ones. And yet each time it happens conservatives are shockedJohn Stewart joined the Green Lantern Corps in 1971. James Rhodes first donned Iron Man's armor in 1983 when Tony Stark was battling alcoholism.

Second, Captain America has always fought for America's liberal traditions of liberty, equality, and democracy. He understood the difference between patriotism and nationalism and battled a false Captain America who did not. The false Cap was a jingoistic McCarthyite who had discovered the super-soldier serum after the original Cap was lost at sea in 1945. Later, in 1964, the Avengers found the original Cap frozen in ice and revived him. The two Captains clashed and the original one won. Thereafter, the character has frequently been a vehicle for looking at America's inner conflicts. This predictably meant political issue-oriented stories that critiqued bigotry and nationalism.

What is the difference between patriotism and nationalism? Patriotism is a loyalty to the aforementioned three ideals of liberty, equality, and democracy. By contrast, nationalism is anchored in some territory or ethnicity. Consequently, patriotism is not marked by hostility to foreigners. Nor does it adore authority and hierarchy, as nationalism so often does. As I noted in my book, the American and French Revolutions were, by definition, internal conflicts rather than external ones and American and French patriots cheered each other's revolts. In 1776, an Anglo nationalist would have sided with the crown. While patriotism encourages freedom, nationalism breeds fascism. And we all know where Captain America stands on those.

And, seriously, what are the odds that those who loathe Franklin D. Roosevelt and the New Deal are going to simultaneously understand and admire Captain America? 

Combining all of the above with the Hugo Award imbroglio and Ted Cruz garbling Star Trek, conservatives have repeatedly proven that they simply do not understand the things they think they love - neither Geekdom, nor America either. Their willful - even militant - misunderstanding is simply epic, which makes my job of picking off their arguments too easy. 

It's just like Beggar's Canyon back home.


* Star Wars fans have made humorous imperial recruitment posters for years. This one copies James Montgomery Flagg's famous 1916 WWI "I Want You" poster, substituting Darth Vader for Uncle Sam. But this was not limited to fandom. Indeed, in the original Star Wars role-playing game there was a two-page spread fake ad that parodied the Army's 1980s "Be All that You Can Be" campaign. I never imagined that a famous pundit would ever take the idea of praising the Empire seriously, but politics imitates satire.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

The Wolf's Dictionary

Surprise, surprise!

Rand Paul thinks it should be okay to fire LBGT people because other people could hire them.

This is actually not surprising because, in the Paul family's flavor of libertarianism, individual liberty fares poorly if you are a minority or vulnerable in any way. And that's because they believe that everyone is a free agent and thus equally free. Real world power imbalances are not acknowledged in their theoretical model, therefore every dispute is a fair fight and we don't need government to referee. As many others have already mentioned, he similarly objected to the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

It's even less surprising since it is a standard argument in many libertarian circles. Penn Jillette made the same argument about the abortion pill on Glenn Beck's show "The Blaze." The pharmacist's conscience trumps yours, so just go to another pharmacist. Never mind if there are not any nearby. Never mind that it is your body. I blogged about that broadcast before in my post "Hobby Lobby Horse Hockey."

It was also the same reasoning behind Kim Davis' recent refusal to issue marriage licenses to LBGT couples. The only two differences are that: 1) Kim Davis is an actual individual rather than a corporation and 2) She is a government official and we have a little thing in this country called the separation of church and state. But the basic attitude is the same across these examples.

And if such "libertarians" like Paul, Beck, and Jillette think people in these gatekeeper professions should be allowed to discriminate, small wonder Paul thinks that any employer should be allowed to.

Obviously, this paleo-libertarian reasoning is a boon for bigots and bullies of all sorts because it lets them redefine private oppression as  personal freedom. Don't want to sleep with the boss to keep your job or get that promotion? Go work someplace else. Accordingly, it has been embraced by conservatives parroting "libertarian" rhetoric. Conservatives are temperamentally authoritarian in their political outlook, but they like to pretend to be libertarians so this argument is rhetorical catnip for them.

But this is a familiar situation. Abraham Lincoln had once pointed out that the wolf and the sheep have very different definitions of liberty - which is why slave holders called him a "tyrant."
The world has never had a good definition of the word liberty, and the American people, just now, are much in want of one. We all declare for liberty; but in using the same word we do not all mean the same thing. With some the word liberty may mean for each man to do as he pleases with himself, and the product of his labor; while with others the same word may mean for some men to do as they please with other men, and the product of other men’s labor. Here are two, not only different, but incompatable things, called by the same name—liberty. And it follows that each of the things is, by the respective parties, called by two different and incompatable names—liberty and tyranny.
The shepherd drives the wolf from the sheep’s throat, for which the sheep thanks the shepherd as a liberator, while the wolf denounces him for the same act as the destroyer of liberty, especially as the sheep was a black one. Plainly the sheep and the wolf are not agreed upon a definition of the word liberty; and precisely the same difference prevails to-day among us human creatures, even in the North, and all professing to love liberty. Hence we behold the processes by which thousands are daily passing from under the yoke of bondage, hailed by some as the advance of liberty, and bewailed by others as the destruction of all liberty. Recently, as it seems, the people of Maryland have been doing something to define liberty; and thanks to them that, in what they have done, the wolf’s dictionary, has been repudiated.
It has been repeatedly repudiated, but it's still in print because there are always new editions.