Monday, July 26, 2010
Menace and Moral Inversion
Hockney: You guys don't have a fucking leg to stand on.
Detective: You think so, tough guy? I could put you in Queens on the night of the hijacking.
Hockney: Really? I live in Queens. Did you put that together yourself, Einstein? What do you got, a team of monkeys working around the clock on this?
For me the dumbest moments in politics call up this bit from The Usual Suspects, in which Kevin Pollak's character, the con Todd Hockney, marvels at the ineptitude of his NYPD interrogators. With the Tea Party nonsense, the simian reference is especially apt: the drooling viciousness with which this entirely id-driven movement is expressed reminds me of some of the more colorful chimpanzee attacks. The tribal perception of encroachment outrages an organic sense of entitlement. If I don't get my birthday cake, you don't get your face.
The Tea Party rallies are a mirror image of the antiwar protests of 2002-2004. The movement that opposed Bush was a diverse and confused congee of the aggrieved, and it was garnished with enough hateful crazy to call into question the wholesomeness of the whole. Our present political moment has seen the NAACP pass a resolution calling on the Tea Party to repudiate racism, and precisely on pitch, Mark Williams, a bombastic radio personality acting (no longer) as the national spokesman of Tea Party Express, responded with this hallmark of the genre:
We are dealing with people [the NAACP] who are professional race-baiters who make a very good living off this kind of thing. They make more money off of race than any slave trader, ever. It's time groups like the NAACP went to the trash heap of history where they belong along with all the other vile, racist groups that emerged in our history.
This is interesting to readers of this blog because it's a mode of moral inversion which is marshaled routinely by Israel and Jew-haters. Consider the worldwide polyphony of claims that Jews, Israelis and Zionists deploy the Holocaust to deflect attention from Israeli crimes, to profit personally, and to maintain generally a kind of moral dominion. One of its leitmotifs is the Arab and Muslim idée fixe of the West's sanctification of the Holocaust, which for example led to Tehran's Hamshahri newspaper staging an International Holocaust Cartoon Competition in retaliation for the Jyllands-Posten Muhammad cartoons. Another example, closer to home, is Norman Finkelstein's notion of a "Holocaust Industry" extorting blood money and bankrolling Israeli imperialism.
Williams' claim that the NAACP is made up of race-hucksters who have profited more than any slave-driver has the same sleazy, vicious goal: to transmogrify the victim into a worse version of the oppressor. Antagonists, who range from uninterested in racism to actively racist, raise a facade of outrage at civil or human rights abuses and stage attacks from behind it on groups they wish to re-victimize. The stratagem is to pose alternately as victims and victims' advocates, defrock the moral legatees of historical crimes and refocus the opprobrium of decent people onto them.
Addendum: Back in May, Mark Williams referred to Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer as "a Jewish Uncle Tom who would have turned rat on Anne Frank."
Sunday, July 11, 2010
The Long Arc of Stupid
At Strom Thurmond's 100th birthday celebration in December, 2002, Trent Lott delivered this show-stopper to the happy crowd:
I want to say this about my state: When Strom Thurmond ran for president, we voted for him. We're proud of it. And if the rest of the country had followed our lead, we wouldn't have had all these problems over all these years, either.
Lott was referring to Thurmond's 1948 run -- in the long American tradition of third-party moral idiocy -- as a Dixiecrat on a segregationist platform, promising that "All the laws of Washington and all the bayonets of the Army cannot force the Negro into our homes, our schools, our churches." A pandemic of outrage followed Lott's remarks, with pressure mounting to strip him of his status as Senate Majority Leader. Lott apologized, explaining that a "poor choice of words" had distorted his meaning, and that he was thinking of Thurmond's strong ideas on national defense when he praised him. This didn't impress Andrew Sullivan, who responded in a post on his blog entitled, "TRENT LOTT MUST GO":
After his disgusting remarks at Strom Thurmond's 100th birthday party, it seems to me that the Republican Party has a simple choice. Either they get rid of Lott as majority leader; or they should come out formally as a party that regrets desegregation and civil rights for African-Americans. Why are the Republican commentators so silent about this? And the liberals? (Josh Marshall, to his credit, states the obvious. And Bill Kristol, to his great credit, expressed disbelief.) And where's the New York Times? Howell Raines is so intent on finding Bull Connor in a tony golf club that when Bull Connor emerges as the soul of the Republican Senate Majority Leader, he doesn't notice it. And where's the president? It seems to me an explicit repudiation of Lott's bigotry is a no-brainer for a "compassionate conservative." Or simply a decent person, for that matter. This isn't the first piece of evidence that Lott is an unreconstructed racist. He has spoken before gussied-up white supremacist groups before. So here's a simple test for Republicans and conservative pundits. Will they call Lott on this excrescence? Or are they exactly what some on the Left accuse them of?
In the shadow of the 2010 World Cup, the spiritual lodestar of Hezbollah, Grand Ayatollah Mohammad Hussein Fadlallah, died. Octavia Nasr, a long-time Middle East correspondent and editor with CNN, tweeted:
Sad to hear of the passing of Sayyed Mohammad Hussein Fadlallah.. One of Hezbollah's giants I respect a lot...
Fadlallah was a millenarian Islamist who afflicted secular democracy in Lebanon, applauded terrorist attacks on Americans and Israelis, wished for the destruction of Israel and denied the Holocaust. A pandemic of outrage followed Nasr's tweet, with pressure mounting on CNN to fire her. Nasr apologized, explaining that Twitter's brevity distorted her meaning, and that she was thinking of Fadlallah's comparatively liberal religious attitude to women when she praised him. This was good enough for Andrew Sullivan, who responded on his blog in a post entitled, "The Policing of the Discourse":
... Octavia Nasr is fired for offending the pro-Israel lobby over a tweet expressing sadness at the death of a Hezbollah leader. Nasr subsequently elaborated on her tweet in a nuanced piece that ran on CNN.com. It reads like an honest piece of journalism to me.
It's amazing what 8 years and several wars for and by Israel can accomplish.