Wednesday, April 30, 2008
God Mildly Scold America
It's just as mawkish and calculated when the media does it, too.
So, as we all know, Obama finally separated himself from Rev. Wright to a degree that maybe, maybe the media won't go into an instant feeding frenzy every time he opens his damn mouth (but I kinda doubt it; I fully expect to see the usual stable of paid right wing pundits debating whether or not Obama's done enough to distance himself from Wright in a week's time). Not that I can't blame him; the minute a trusted ally starts talking AIDS conspiracy theories, there's a need to get out before the circular firing squad closes in.
But I'd like to talk about why we're all talking about Wright in the first place, and not, say, Hagee (besides, well, the obvious). The clip that has been hammered into our skulls. The one where Wright shouts, "God damn America!" If you'd listen to the news, you'd think he'd just randomly decided to get his Fred Phelps on. The phrase, while a rather poor choice of words, came as part of a recognition that America has, as a nation, done some pretty shitty things.
There are things we, as a nation, refuse, or at least politely decline, to face. Thomas Jefferson owned slaves. John Adams was responsible for one of the worst abuses to civil liberties in the history of our nation (name one other time when any speech, any speech critical of the government, was grounds for imprisonment). Andrew Jackson, the guy on our $20 bill, defied the will of the Supreme Court to carry out an action that turned into a genocide.
Today's obviously no bed of roses, either. It's become public knowledge that the President of the United States had a hand in choosing what torture techniques would be used on detainees. But such a story gets politely ignored, while everyone focuses on Obama accurately describing a marginalized populace as "bitter" like he shat on a kitten. We don't even call it torture anymore in the news; we call it "enhanced interrogation techniques."
But there's this story we like to tell ourselves: that America is awesome, righteous, the land of the brave and the home of the free. I, too, believe that it can be these things. But for us to truly assume this legacy, we need to realize that we have our monsters as well as our heroes.
Friday, April 25, 2008
The Corpulent Chaos
Oh, look at that. Rush Limbaugh has a plan to unleash widespread violence in order to make Democrats look bad. Raise your hand if you are in any way surprised by this.
Nope, didn't think so.
The dream end of this is that this keeps up to the convention and we have a replay of Chicago 1968 with burning cars, protests, fires, literal riots, and all of that. That’s that’s the objective here.”
Now, I know this is supposed to be serious and all, but I just can't get around the fact that he calls his plan for electoral sabotage and urban rioting "Operation Chaos." Dear God, he sounds like a pill-popping version of Butters.
But, back to seriousness: this is not the first time that a right-wing radio host has encouraged sabotaging the democratic process, and there wasn't exactly a whole lot of repercussion in that case, either. But this is different. Rush has organized his stupid little "Operation Chaos" with the plans of directly causing conflict in the Democratic Party and spreading turmoil. He keeps saying, "Blame Al Sharpton!", but he's the one who wants to throw thermite on a fire. By both Colorado law and federal statute, that counts as incitement to riot.
We might want to let the Colorado Attorney General know about that, huh?
Thursday, April 24, 2008
"Do You See 'Touch-A-Boobie Foundation' Tattooed On My Forehead?"
As has been stated on multiple occasions on this blog, I am a geek. And, as a geek, I am often defensive of geek culture. Because, let's face it, John Rogers has it right (as he does on so many occasions) when he says that the unwritten laws of the media say that most portrayals of geeks will fall upon the absolute outliers of the subculture, the same way that most gay pride parade coverage includes at least a five-second shot of all the drag queens and virtually zero coverage of the gay police officers. Of course, this has put me in the position of trying to defend geek culture while at the same time trying to distance myself from its excesses and areas where the lack of social understanding really comes through, all while entertaining the paranoid notion that I may be the geek equivalent of the "straight-laced" gay guy who wishes the drag queens would all go away so that we would look better for the straight people.
Still, there's no other way to say it: this Open-Source Boob Project is incredibly stupid, and deserves to be dragged out into the sunlight for ridicule, damn the consequences. For those of you who aren't on LiveJournal and who don't read feminist blogs, the_ferrett, a somewhat popular LJer and webcomic author, was at a con when he and his friends came to a conclusion:
“This should be a better world,” a friend of mine said. “A more honest one, where sex isn’t shameful or degrading. I wish this was the kind of world where say, ‘Wow, I’d like to touch your breasts,’ and people would understand that it’s not a way of reducing you to a set of nipples and ignoring the rest of you, but rather a way of saying that I may not yet know your mind, but your body is beautiful.”
After some female friends agree to the idea, the_ferrett and company try to apply it to total strangers:
And every girl in that hallway was then asked the question: "May I touch your breasts?" They considered, and said yes. And we all did.
Okay, so, just so you got that: the_ferrett and his gaggle of friends approach a girl in a hallway as a group. One member of the group asks the girl, "Is it okay if we touch your tits?" Anyone else remember those little classes from middle school about peer pressure and its effects? But here, the_ferrett cites it as an example of his utopian experiment in action.
But, of course, it must be applied to other cons to gather more
At Penguicon, we had buttons to give away. There were two small buttons, one for each camp: A green button that said, "YES, you may" and a red button that said "NO, you may not." And anyone who had those buttons on, whether you knew them or not, was someone you could approach and ask:
"Excuse me, but may I touch your breasts?"
And if you weren't a total lout - the women retained their right to say no, of course - they would push their chests out, and you would be allowed into the sanctity of it. That exchange of happiness where one person are told with gropes and touches that they are desirable and the other is someone who's allowed to desire.
So... at a convention devoted to geekdom, a place where geeks of both genders and all sexual orientations are ostensibly gathered in some sort of safe place to indulge in their hobbies without repercussions from the hegemony, a situation has now been created where a women must actively designate whether or not she is okay with the concept of being felt up by a man. Instead of enjoying the silent compact that is supposed to exist in our culture where one's body is one's own property to be used as one wishes, and not at the behest of a bunch of horny guys who're still coping with their issues from high school.
Now, I can understand the idea that society's hidebound mores on sexual tendencies have made things horribly awkward for everyone; this was the philosophy on which the "free love" communes of the '60s operated. Unfortunately, philosophy does not equal practice. This guy is talking about introducing into a male-dominated setting a system of action where women are asked, not by an individual, but by a collective of (predominantly) men whether or not they are comfortable being touched in an intimate place. If you can't see the number of ways this can go horribly, horribly wrong, you just aren't trying.
I love a lot of my fellow geeks. I really do. But there are some geeks out there who really need to realize that not everyone digs the utopian love trip you and your friends are on, especially when it comes with the baggage of groupthink.
Post title comes from the inimitable Something Positive
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
Sorry for yet another fit on absence. Finals are upon me, which means I don't have much time to meaninglessly bloviate these days (at least, on a blog).
So, as you may have noticed by now, Hillary won Pennsylvania by a 10-point margin of victory. Of course, this came on the tail of weeks of needless speculation about, of all things, bowling, orange juice, and "bitterness."
Well, now that Hillary's won, who's here to drop a turd in the metaphorical punch bowl of national debate? Why, none other than Chris Matthews! What say you on the Pennsylvania victory, Chris?
“…But I really do think it’s a strange time because we’re all watching to see who won, but as Nora pointed out, 4 out of 5 ,or so, of the Hillary voters today believe she’s still in the running. That this is still up in the air and I think that was probably a mistake of the media. I think in the effort of the media, to try to keep this game going, we’ve created the delusion that somehow this race is still open. I don’t think it is open. I think if you look at the numbers Barack has to really blow it in the weeks ahead to lose.”
I'm sorry, would this be the same Chris Matthews who looked upon Hillary's unexpected victory in New Hampshire and blamed it on Bill dicking Monica? Would this be the same Chris Matthews who made a big to-do about Barack Obama's fucking bowling score and tendency to drink orange juice in a diner? And he's the one saying the media's made a farce of this whole thing?
Maybe the media did go overboard on some of the factors of this primary (the fact that we've actually used the term "Bittergate" is certainly testament to that). But once again, Chris Matthews proves that, when he talks about "the media," he's obviously not talking about himself.
Friday, April 18, 2008
I may be the last person in the liberal blogosphere to report on this, due to the sudden encroachment of finals. But Jesus Christ in a hybrid, the mainstream news media has completely lost the plot.
That video above? Just a short collection of excerpts from Tuesday night's ABC Democratic debate which, apparently, had forty fucking minutes of such questions essential to the future of our nation as Obama's feelings of "bitterness," Rev. Jeremiah Wright, and fucking flag lapel pins. It may be, without a doubt, one of the stupidest things I will ever have the grand misfortune of viewing in my life.
And of course, the media is painting itself as blameless for all of this. It's not their fault, people like David Brooks say; they're just giving the public what they want. One question: what public? What public has explicitly announced its demand for the coverage of worthless candidate minutia over the issues that will affect them in everyday life? What public gives a shit about bowling, pant suits, or barbecue? Oh, I know; it's the imaginary common people who live in the heads of the media elite, the ones they swear are absolutely concerned with all the gossipy shit that seems to get them off.
The public don't want it. The public are sick and fucking tired of it, if the response to the ABC debate is any indicator. Then again, it's not like the media cares; like usual, when a story generates a large negative reaction, a few positive comments are handpicked and presented in the name of "balance."
Eight years ago, the media fell into such a feeding frenzy over the minutia of the Gore campaign that they deliberately passed along false facts. Four years ago, the media cared more about the war Kerry fought in decades ago rather than what he'd do about the one we were currently involved in. We cannot let this infantile, masturbatory focus on the trivial continue to dominate the campaign coverage. Not if we value the journalistic process in any way, shape, or form.
Monday, April 14, 2008
Oh, I'll Show You "Bitter"
Yes, I know it's the liberal blogger cliche, but really, this feels like the appropriate time to bring it up.
The President of the United States went on television Friday night and admitted that he had personally approved which torture techniques would be used against detainees. The high-ranking members of his cabinet oversaw this decision, and even expressed the idea that they would not be abhorred by the American people. They pushed the limits of the infamous "torture memo" drafted by John Yoo -- you know, the guy who said that there's no law to keep the president from ordering the crushing of a suspect's child's testicles. The leaders of our nation specifically signed off on torture, and knew what they were doing.
So, how much coverage has this news gotten? It's gotten a story from CBS, and brief coverage from MSNBC. But what about CNN, the number one source for cable news?
Sweet. Fuck. All. Instead, we've seen hour after hour after motherfucking hour on an off-handed comment by Obama at a fund raiser and the inherent folly of three multi-millionaires bandying about the label of "elitist" like it means something. And the media are making hay out of this, as if Obama was caught shitting on an orphan, while in the background, the President of the United States admits to having a hand in torture. I'd just like to repeat that, in case it's slipped anyone's mind: the highest office in our land admits to plotting out methods of torture, and it's background noise.
By this point, there is no slur, no insult, no disparaging comment ripe enough to reflect my current distaste with the news media in this country. I must admit a grudging respect to ABC News for running the story, even if they ended up consigning it to the Friday night memory hole, but the utter fall of CNN from bastion of cable news to 24-hour sideshow is unforgivable. There is a reason why Bush and his cabinet members have managed to get away with everything they have done, and it reaches further than a simple memo or unswerving patriotism.
Wednesday, April 09, 2008
Heckle and Jeckle
This? This is heckling.
This? This is heckling.
This? This is not heckling, but rather a polite question being asked in a civil tone of voice by an audience member about whether or not McCain's talking out of the side of his mouth when he pays a visit somewhere but says there's no political motive. But CNN reporter Jim Acosta calls it outright heckling, going so far as to compare it to being under fire.
Jesus Christ. I thought it was the media's job to deconstruct a candidate, not to serve as his hemorrhoid pillow.
Another Sterling Example Of Cogent Debate
You stay classy, Christopher Hitchens:
Man, at this point trying to follow Hitchens' pattern of reasoning is like trying to maneuver a labyrinth while blindfolded. Being a lesbian is a great insult, despite the fact that they're the only women who can be funny. And he keeps attacking Rev. Wright for supposedly narrow views about Judaism, despite the fact that he's no big fan of the Jews either.
But who am I kidding. It's Christopher Hitchens. He'll say anything contrarian if there's a paycheck involved.
Sunday, April 06, 2008
The Important Shit
There's nothing I can say about the media's tiresome obsession with things like Edwards's haircut, Hillary's tits, and Obama's gutter balls that Glenn Greenwald does not say more masterfully.
Well, I suppose I could say it more bluntly: we, the people, don't give a shit. We do not care if one politician fails to wear a flag pin, or if another serves you tasty barbecue, or if another favors the pantsuits. The press corps, however, do. They get boners over these issues. As Glenn says, they claim to speak for "the Regular People," but they just speak for themselves.
For the most part, the press corps these days embodies one of the major cliches of postmodernism -- endlessly arguing about the essence of an object without arguing about its weight. The war, the economy, torture -- all these are secondary to whether or not the candidates are "real Americans," for whatever measure the press determines to be "real."
Friday, April 04, 2008
Pop Philosophy Will Eat Itself
I'm a fan of South Park. I like its crude humor, its pop culture analysis, and its ability to attack targets with a buzz saw. But I also have a big problem with it: I don't think Trey Parker and Matt Stone take some things seriously enough, and when they try to make a point about them, they come off as craven hypocrites.
It's something I call "PCU Syndrome", after the movie that was all about how college activists are overly-sensitive fanatics, multiculturalism is folly, and the people who stick speed bumps on handicapped ramps are the new Ferris Buellers. I'll admit that college activism and clueless ventures in multiculturalism are often rich subjects for satire -- God, are they ever rich for mockery -- but to be entirely dismissive of a movement that aids others makes the people behind PCU look like overly privileged frat boys who don't understand why those feminists are so bitchy all the time.
Same with Parker and Stone. It showed up the first time in Team America: World Police, which was all about how Hollywood celebrities shouldn't use their fame to argue political opinions from a position of authority. Keep in mind that this movie was made years after South Park had stopped being about cute little kids who swore and was starting to play up the political humor with a bend towards opinion. It's still a funny movie (as seen above), but at its heart, it's clueless.
Same thing with last night's episode, "Canada On Strike", which I bowed out of because I knew there was little chance this would end well. The episode ends with Kyle delivering a speech on how the Writer's Guild -- sorry, Canada -- was foolish to make a big fuss about web-based content that hasn't delivered cash to anyone yet. Except, as August points out, Parker and Stone signed a deal back in August that's estimated to deliver $75 million in ad revenue by putting every episode of South Park up on the Internet to view.
I love satire, even when it pokes at my own set of sacred cows. After all, I agree that the causes I follow are flawed and foolish in some areas, and I would like to see those areas mocked so that I may work to correct them. I'm just not a big fan of the satirist who picks at the mote in my eye while ignoring the split-level house in his.
Wednesday, April 02, 2008
I am white. I grew up in a suburb that skewed decidedly upper-middle-class. I am gay. I am currently pursuing a college education tailored towards a career in the entertainment business. I'm a guy. I live in Massachusetts, and plan to go to Los Angeles soon. I have Asperger's Syndrome. I am a geek. I work one job for minimum wage, and am desperately trying to get another for the summer.
Am I normal? Depends. What the hell do you call "normal"? The fact that I'm on the autistic spectrum likely skews me several degrees off balance. Gays are a noted minority, but at my college, probably half the male student body is gay. Then again, I'm also a white male, which means I'm common as dirt all across this fine US of A. Massachusetts and LA have been separated out by common knowledge as where the "weirdos" live by some common knowledge that I cannot contribute to, falling only behind San Francisco. But I come from a middle class background, which is pretty much average across America these days (though likely shrinking). What I'm saying is, I'm a mish-mash of traits, and can't be analyzed for any one factor.
Oh, and what I'm also saying is that Chris Matthews is a leaking asshole, but we already knew that.
MATTHEWS: OK. Let me ask you about how he -- how's he connect with regular people? Does he? Or does he only appeal to people who come from the African-American community and from the people who have college or advanced degrees?
Ah, yes, the perpetual skink hunt for the "regular person." The kind of thing that sends normally rational reporters to the literal fucking middle of the country to pester farmers for their folksy wisdom. The kind of thing that convinces ostensibly liberal commentators to throw over gays, blacks, and women to seek out "the common worker", who most certainly is not gay, black, or a woman. And, as seen above, the kind of thing that leads us to marginalize entire constituencies because we fetishize the myth of the true American, the blue collar bowler who never went to college.
Now, I'm not knocking the blue collar people. They do a damn good job, and they need their voices heard. But I am sick and tired of how media personalities paint the "regular" man as the be-all and end-all of politics. Blacks? Nope, too few. Gays? Nope, they dress funny. Women? No, they have vaginas and breasts and such. Urban people? No, they're too weird. People with college educations? Nah, you know what all that book-learning does to a potential constituent. Everyone knows that the only person who matters in America is the straight white male factory worker.
So, once you're done catering to them... what about the hundreds of millions of other people in America?
Tuesday, April 01, 2008
Who's The Fool Again?
Welcome to the Day Of A Thousand Rickrolls. I just thought I would get mine out of the way.