Dennis Dale's daughter purchased the right for him to post on Slog for a week through our annual holiday auction Strangercrombie, which this year benefited neglected children and the homeless. More info about our charity auction here. The views expressed in Dale's editorials on Slog are his alone and have not been edited based on ideology.
My name is Dennis Dale and I'll be blogging here through Friday, inspiration willing. I maintain a desultory blog of my own, which I will refrain from mentioning again, modesty willing. I’ve also published a few magazine articles over the years, though, for which I claim semi-pro status—not a neophyte but a dilettante! If you’re not sure that’s a good thing, neither am I. Let this be our little experiment seeking an answer to that question. I’ll do my best, and as for you, reader, let me just remind you now that while humoring overreaching amateurs may encourage bad art and foul notions, it's always good manners. And manners are what really count.
Here’s our problem. I am to the right of Ronald Reagan. Literally; I bought a plot, due northwest from and to the Gipper's own eternal right-hand side and so, like Bill Murray's burn-out groundskeeper in Caddyshack (blessed with deathbed enlightenment by a guru, in lieu of monetary gratuity) I have that consolation awaiting me. The Pacific sunsets will endlessly strafe us with their glorious rays until kingdom come, or Obama, having declared his presidency-for-life and finally revealing his secret alliance with Ahmadinejad and Chavez, turns the Reagan presidential library into a mosque and hands the grounds over to Venezuelan flood-victims and their clucking, defecating chickens. shudder
Not really; it’s both not as bad as and far worse than that. But ideology is like real estate; it’s all about location, location, location. Here then I will be the temporary reactionary in residence. So do be gentle and, please, not in the face. The week's blogging was a gift, by the way—for you as well, as you no doubt have already decided. Thank you, I'll be here all week.
To avoid a too-jarring shock, for each one of us, I'll just ease into this progressive morass with a wholly inoffensive post on a wholly innoffensive topic and with due reverence for the date. Below the fold.
Rhetoric and Political Violence
kinesis, n a movement that is a response to a stimulus but is not oriented with respect to the source of stimulation[1913 Webster]
Ten days ago a madman, having legally acquired a handgun, killed six unsuspecting innocents. The Democratic Party, assisted by the braver elements of the national media, sprung into action, quickly wrestling the First Amendment to the ground and disarming it before it could do more damage. Alas, the culprit has escaped, spirited away by his longtime associates Hate and Intolerance, no doubt. Fear not; speech posses are combing the hinterlands even now in search of malicious metaphors and savage similes. Needless to say, these suspects should be considered armed and dangerous. In the event that you come into contact with one, make no attempt to engage it, avoid ear contact and back away slowly before fleeing to your nearest progressive cable news outlet or blog, where you can report the encounter. Don't be a hero. That's what we put Keith Olbermann in pancake make-up for.
But above all, just as Fox News and the DHS dutifully advise regarding the terrorist threat of such criminal masterminds as the Liberty Seven and donkey-borne Taliban in the Pashtun hinterlands: be afraid, be very afraid. Always. And trust in the government. Always. Just as in those heady days following 9-11, we are advised to "watch what we say." The parallels between this and that panic make a handy and instructive analog for the confused citizen. Meanwhile, working with heroic speed, experts have already fashioned a new standard for acceptable public rhetoric—if it's capable of provoking a raving lunatic it is illicit. Make a note of it.
This has been necessarily expanded from the original focus on white male Republicans, who nonetheless retain their place atop the hierarchy of hysteria. This all will take some getting used to, I know, but one can always observe Mom's advice—if you don't have anything nice to say, drown your hatemongering words and yourself in your acidic spittle, you fascist bigot. And if you’re incapable of recognizing what might set off a lunatic, you are the lunatic.
And don't despair; our enlightened betters are valiantly fighting to will into being this "new reality" that will have "changed everything." They know what they're talking about. Recall the media's uncanny prophesy that AIDS "changed everything," delivering us from our libertine sexual ways; that 9/11 "changed everything," bringing the nation together finally; and of course the post-partisan transformation of Barack Obama's presidency ushering in a new era of domestic tranquility and world peace. These are the people who saved you from Saddam Hussein's killer drones and WMD labs, remember. Despar not of their wisdom and sobriety.
So, aroused from my own torpor by this national emergency, I have decided to do my part, by recycling here an old essay of mine about another unstable naif stirred up by the bigoted rhetoric of political demagogues, and his reception in the media. Originally posted last August 15.
Cowardice and Credulity
psy•cho•sis, n loss of contact with reality: a psychiatric disorder such as schizophrenia or mania that is marked by delusions, hallucinations, incoherence, and distorted perceptions of reality. Microsoft Encarta
Is it too soon, for decency, or too late, because things move fast nowadays, to speculate on the potential for an Omar Thornton fan page? Due to the solemn credulity with which the media addressed the accusations—of a killer against his still dying victims—no mass murderer has so quickly gained so high a platform for so petty a charge. When the crimination is “white racism” no decent interval is allowed. Neither, skepticism. Omar’s hearing was immediately and dutifully granted in response to his crimes, with the usual suspect “experts” weighing in—only this time on workplace discrimination, not, as we've come to expect, workplace violence.
This estimation of "racism", broadly defined, as the equivalent of violence (with the noose as a talisman and the "n-word" as incantation, both imbued with supernatural powers) is how the cultural commissariat sanctions black-on-white violence as an unfortunate but understandable means of redress.
The press response occurred at the nexus of willed ignorance and forced imagination. The sort of horrors before which this cloistered class feigns to shudder on behalf of Thornton and his ilk they can only imagine. And imagine they do, with energy and diligence. I had previously reckoned a sane man’s homicidal “breaking point” was well beyond an overheard slur, an item of graffiti, and a company’s objection to being systematically robbed by its own. Merely mentioning these charges here, even if true in their slender entirety, is to give them indecent attention. Forgive me, but this is a very dirty business.
And we still don’t know the depths to which our media will go to prove its ideological gullibility—no echoes of restraint have yet answered the pings of credulity that were the first news reports. Exhaustion, rather than shame, quelled the herd’s hysteria. We can say the farcical delusion goes at least as deep as this Christian Science Monitor headline:
How quaint of you, if you thought the answer all-too-clear in the case of a shooter singling out the middle-aged white men who built and sustained the company that employed and endured him (as they tend to do wherever we find productive endeavor—an unacknowledged fact explaining most of the deliberately cultivated resentment, eagerly taken up by Omar, for this, the last remaining class against which discrimination is codified into law and derision is compelled by culture). No, this bigotry doesn't alarm the media. Even in the act of murder a black man isn't granted the capacity for hate that a white innocent bears like a human stain, shed not even in death. America's "original sin" is, after all, confined to white Americans in perpetuity, whoever they are and whatever they do. Sickening still, but no longer surprising.
The grotesque irony of pursuing a homicidal bigot’s complaints of racial harassment is only noticed by the irrelevant (my hand’s raised). Still, the CSM story above actually lagged the pack to the skeptical rear by featuring an authority discounting, rather than humoring or giving undue credence to, Omar’s charges. For the media the event worked like a brain-teaser, where habitual thinking leads one to miss plain meaning. You know: one of the coins is a nickel; the doctor is the boy’s mother; the hateful murderer is the bigot.
No “but of course” moment is forthcoming. Here the press is like the ideal subject for a hypnotist’s lounge act: easily brought under, highly suggestible, shameless in its stupor, oblivious in retrospect.
This defamation of the dead isn‘t without its black comedy: the murderer was wearied, we’re told (by a callow girlfriend as oblivious to shame as the reporters encouraging her, reveling in the attention and enthusiastically adopting, as it were, the role usually reserved for a tearful mother), by the racism that just so happened to find him at every job. The chronically incompetent and stupid typically blame luck or a spiteful world for their misfortunes, and in Omar’s mind racism followed him like a personal storm cloud, manifested, I presume, in charges of tardiness, ineptitude, theft. Perhaps it is me who’s being naïve. After all, what a boundless reservoir of racism white America is!
The media’s appetite would not be sated before we were assured of the gentle nature of this man and his love for family, lovers, and handguns. One newspaper featured a photo spread of the widow (of the killer, not one of the killed), complete with an image of the tattoo consecrating her upper thigh to their love.
In this AP story some demanded (further) justice be delivered upon the dead:
Some experts said Friday that, although nothing justifies Thornton's killing spree, the allegations of workplace racism should be investigated so they can either be dealt with or laid to rest. "You have to investigate it," said employment lawyer Kelly Scott, adding that racial harassment in the workplace is often a crime.
"Any chance you have to make your workplace a better place, a safer place, you have to take it," Scott said. "If there are people who have these attitude problems or problem dealing with other races, they should lose their jobs." [seems the company attempted just this, in firing Omar]
Sharon Toomer, founder of the website blackandbrownnews.com, called it "an accountability issue." "If he didn't (report harassment), that's great. He's just a nut case," [but if he did...] she said. "If he did go and nobody did anything, then the company's hands are not clean." [killin' is too good for 'em]
Messages seeking comment about a potential investigation into Thornton's racism claims were left Friday for the Hartford State's Attorney's Office, the FBI's New Haven office, the chairman of the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities, and for the president of the Connecticut NAACP.
Once the guilt of the dead is confirmed by the standard of federal “civil rights law”—wherein the burden of proof is on the accused (here they can be said to be doubly disadvantaged, compelled by law to prove the negative in a voice rendered silent by their accuser; damn this teacher is strict!)—remedies will be considered. Perhaps a class action suit and subsequent settlement, an injunction mandating some sort of diversity program, a donation to an activist organization (and administration ally) of the Justice Department’s selection, the hiring of some member of the elect. Ms. Sherrod is available.