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‘Conservative media’ is bullshit

I hope to make this my last word on the Shirley Sherrod debacle for a while. (But I’m not holding my breath.)

Before I retire to bed I just want to note that the headline “Sherrod Case Shows Power of Conservative Media” for this Associated Press piece really fucking rankles me.

Whether the AP supplied that headline or Yahoo! News did, it’s woefully inaccurate.

First, there is the word “conservative.” No, these are lying lunatics we’re talking about, not just “conservatives.” Conservatives suck ass, yes, indeed, but those screaming “black racists! black racists! black racists!” aren’t just your old Goldwater-variety “conservatives.”

They are, as Ted Rall calls them, “protofascists.”*

They are dangerous. They don’t just hold an opinion. They’re talking about the violent overthrow of the democratically elected government. When their stupid white guy is made president even though he lost the vote, they call it “democracy,” and they call their detractors “Sore Losermen,” but when the black guy beats their white guy by seven percentage points, they call it “tyranny” and they actually liken it to the actual tyranny that led up to the Revolutionary War.  

One of these wingnuts, Byron Williams of California, whom I wrote about yesterday, very apparently got it into his head to shoot up an obscure progressive organization in San Francisco because he’d heard Grand Dragon Glenn Beck repeatedly denounce the organization on Faux “News.” (Luckily, the California Highway Patrol got to Williams first and he ended up getting shot up himself but killing no one.)

So to call these people — and I agree wholeheartedly with Rall’s term for them, “protofascists” — “conservatives” is to give them a legitimacy that they don’t fucking have. And worse, the word “conservative” makes them sound a lot more harmless than they actually are.

Then, there is the word “media.”

The word “media” gives an air of legitimacy to such illegitimate purveyors of truth as wingnutty blogs and Faux “News.”

I have a bachelor of science in journalism, so I know how “fair and balanced” mainstream journalists are trained to be. So far do they bend over backwards to be “fair and balanced” that they treat even the most insane right-wing bullshit and the most extremist right-wing enterprises as legitimate, lest they be accused of — gasp! — “liberal bias”!

But, as Sen. Al Franken says (and I believe he is quoting the late Sen. Patrick Moynihan), you are entitled to your own opinions, but not to your own facts.

Since the wingnutty “media” blatantly lie, routinely, to call them “media” is to suggest that they are legitimate purveyors of truth, just like the newspapers and television news broadcasts of yore.

A right-wing racist blogger blatantly recutting a video of a black woman’s speech to “prove” that the black woman (whose speech actually was about racial reconciliation) is “racist” — and then this video lie just parroted on Faux “News” and other wingnutty outlets because they so very badly want to show the “video” of the “racist” black woman: that is legitimate media?

“Sherrod Case Shows Power of Conservative Media.”

The word “power” too suggests legitimacy that just doesn’t fucking exist here.

The only words of that headline that are accurate are “Sherrod Case Shows.”

The correct headline should be: “Sharrod Case Shows That When the President of the United States of America Actually Takes Action Based Upon Bold-Faced Lies Bouncing Around the Wingnut Echo Chamber, This Nation Is Fucked Up Beyond All Recognition! Head for Canada!” 

“[People] being afraid of the machine that the right has put out there – that’s what’s driving this,” Shirley Sherrod said of her lynching.

Yup.

Shirley Sherrod is courageous and she’s wise.

She should be president.

*Rall writes, in part:

Is the Tea Party racist? Democrats who play liberals on TV say it isn’t. Vice President Joe Biden says the Tea Party “is not a racist organization” per se, but allows that “at least elements that were involved in some of the Tea Party folks expressed racist views.”

Right-wing Congresswoman Michele Bachmann has received permission to form an official Tea Party Caucus in the U.S. House of Representatives. It’s official. The Tea Party matters.

So: is it racist? Certainly a sizeable minority of Tea Partiers’ “take America back” rhetoric is motivated by thinly disguised resentment that a black guy is president. As for the remainder, their tacit tolerance of the intolerant speaks for itself. “Take America back” from whom? You know whom. It ain’t white CEOs.

Yes. The Tea Party is racist. Obviously.

But racism is only one facet of a far more sinister political strain. It’s more accurate to categorize the Tea Party as something the United States has never seen before, certainly not in such large numbers or as widespread.

The Tea Party is a protofascist movement.

Robert O. Paxton defined fascism as “a form of political behavior marked by obsessive preoccupation with community decline, humiliation or victimhood and by compensatory cults of unity, energy and purity, in which a mass-based party of committed nationalist militants, working in uneasy but effective collaboration with traditional elites, abandons democratic liberties and pursues with redemptive violence and without ethical or legal restraints goals of internal cleansing and external expansion.”

Typical Tea Party rants fit the classic fascist mold in several respects. America, Tea Partiers complain, is falling behind. Like Hitler, they blame leftists and liberals for a “stab in the back,” treason on the homefront. The trappings of hypernationalism — flags, bunting, etc. —are notably pervasive at Tea Party rallies, even by American standards. We see “collaboration with traditional elites” — Rush Limbaugh, Congressmen, Republican Party bigwigs (including the most recent vice presidential nominee) — to an extent that is unprecedented in recent history….

[Umberto] Eco [in his 1995 essay “Eternal Fascism”] also discusses fascism’s “appeal to a frustrated middle class, a class suffering from an economic crisis or feelings of political humiliation, and frightened by the pressure of lower social groups.” Guard the borders! Deport the immigrants! Mexicans are stealing our jobs!

So much anger. It’s too bad that the (justifiable) rage of the white male middle-class is directed against their fellow victims. It’s worse that they’re playing into the blood-soaked hands of their own oppressors. 

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Potbellies in, buffness out?

Is this actually becoming the new standard of male attractiveness? (If so, then I’m one attractive guy! [But I don’t have man-boobs (not that there’s anything wrong with that!) and I’m a bit more endowed than that…])

Has the chiseled, buff look been so co-opted by gay men over the past several years that the chiseled, buff look now actually is considered to be effeminate?

How fucking pleasantly ironic if so!

I was delighted to see a recent piece on the New York Times’ website indicate that perhaps this is so — and that the potbelly (the “Ralph Kramden”) apparently is in. From the piece:

…[T]his year an unexpected element has been added to [men’s popular] look, and that is a burgeoning potbelly [that] one might term the “Ralph Kramden.”

Too pronounced to be blamed on the slouchy cut of a T-shirt, too modest in size to be termed a proper beer gut, developed too young to come under the heading of a paunch, the Ralph Kramden is everywhere to be seen lately…

Leading with a belly is a male privilege of long standing, of course, a symbol of prosperity in most cultures and of freedom from anxieties about body image that have plagued women since Eve.

Until recently, men were under no particular obligation to exhibit bulging deltoids and shredded abdominals; that all changed, said David Zinczenko, the editor of Men’s Health, when women moved into the work force in numbers. “The only ripples Ralph Kramden” and successors like Mike Brady of “The Brady Bunch” had to demonstrate were in their billfolds, said Mr. Zinczenko, himself a dogged crusader in the battle of the muffin top. “But that traditional male role has changed.”

As women have come to outnumber men in the workplace, it becomes more important than ever for guys to armor themselves, Mr. Zinczenko said, with the “complete package of financial and physical,” to billboard their abilities as survivors of the cultural and economic wilds.

This makes sense, in a way, but how does one account for the new prevalence of Ralph Kramdens? Have men given in or given up? …

“I sort of think the six-pack abs obsession got so prissy it stopped being masculine,” is how Aaron Hicklin, the editor of [the gay men’s magazine] Out, explains the emergence of the Ralph Kramden. What once seemed young and hot, for gay and straight men alike, now seems passé.

Like manscaping, spray-on tans and other metrosexual affectations, having a belly one can bounce quarters off suggests that you may have too much time on your hands.

“It’s not cool to be seen spending so much time fussing around about your body,” Mr. Hicklin said.

And so guys can happily and guiltlessly go to seed.

Women have almost never gotten a pass on the need to maintain their bodies, while men always have, said Robert Morea, a personal fitness trainer (full disclosure: my own).

It would be too much, he added, to suggest that “potbellies are suddenly OK,” but as lean muscle and functionality become the new gym mantras, hypertrophied He-Men with grapefruit biceps and blister-pack abs have come to resemble specimens from a diorama of “A Vanished World.”

“When do you ever see that guy, anyway?” Mr. Morea asked, referring to those legendary Men’s Health cover models, with their rippling torsos and famished smiles. “The only time you really see that guy, he’s standing in front of an Abercrombie & Fitch store.”

Perhaps, he suggested, there is really only one of them. “It’s the same guy. They just move him around.”

I’m not advocating that the “Ralph Kramden” should be the new gold standard for gay men’s look and that thus those soon-to-be-extinct dinosaurs with the “grapefruit biceps” should stop lifting weights and start developing watermelon abs.

I advocate that we gay men learn how to love and appreciate each other as human beings rather than as mere pieces of meat and that we see the beauty in all kinds of physical forms.

And, as much as this “bear”* might love to see chunky become the new gold standard of gay male beauty and to see the gym rats fall by the wayside — it would seem like exquisitely rare poetic justice — I hate gay clones and I don’t want voluptuous to become the new buff. Clones are clones, no matter how much body fat they are packing.

Speaking of gay clones, I understand that the gay men of the Castro district of San Francisco in the 1970s all looked alike — ectomorphic (slim) to mildly to moderately mesomorphic (muscular) — so that the phenomenon of gay clones has been with us for decades, apparently.

When I attended the Castro Street Fair almost two years ago, it was apparent that the ideal gay look was chiseled and buff (i.e., extremely mesomorphic).

After the thousandth shirtless hyper-mesomorphic clone that I saw at the street fair, I saw some normal-looking gay guys (that is, ectomorphic to mildly mesomorphic, not too thin but not buff or fat, either) at a kissing booth. After all of the nauseating mesomorphic clones, who apparently think that they’re special by copying everyone else, the ectomorphs-by-comparison at the kissing booth were looking very appealing to me. Seriously; after all of those walking slabs of beef I just wanted to see some normal guys.

When I see an uber-buff gay guy, I don’t think: Stud! I think: This guy spends waaay too much time in the gym to have developed any sort of a personality. This guy cares way too much about what others think of his appearance to have any substance. And of course he’s going to judge me by the same superficial standards by which he judges himself. And I think: The aging process is going to chew this guy up and spit him out.

Not that you can’t take care of yourself. Not that I oppose healthful practices.

But the swarms of sides of beef that I saw at the Castro Street Fair almost two years ago weren’t about health. They were about vanity and about wanting to be at the top of the gay-looks pecking order. My guess is that many if not most of them were on steroids, causing long-term damage to their bodies as well as to their souls.

The buff look became the gold standard for gay men sometime in the 1990s. Maybe it was the economic plenty of the Clinton years that freed up so many gay men’s time to be able to live in the gym.  

Gay porn, on which I am a bit of an expert, went from normal-looking guys in the 1970s to the early to mid-1980s to the buff look by the 1990s to the present.

Guys in 1970s mainstream gay porn rarely were fat, it is true, but they weren’t bodybuilders, either. Today, virtually no gay porn star can make it big unless he’s big because he lives in the gym.

Hopefully, the New York Times piece is correct and this is about to change.

Before I wrap this up, let me share a personal anecdote:

I attend a gay men’s discussion group once a week and a newbie named Albert (his real first name) came this past week. He’s about my age and he has a significant “Ralph Kramden” going on.

All that I could see (and feel) was Albert’s strong, positive energy. He’s newly out of the closet, says that he’s a construction foreman, and he looks it; you wouldn’t know that he’s gay unless he told you.

After group, when I remarked to another gay guy who had attended the group that I found Albert to be an attractive man (admittedly, it’s a contributing factor that Albert at least somewhat resembles a [slimmer] ex-boyfriend of mine whom I’ll always love), my peer stated that no, not with that belly is Albert attractive!

Wow.

I saw Albert, and apparently all that my peer could see was Fat Albert.    

We gay men want acceptance from the non-gay community when we don’t exactly have a shitload of acceptance within our own…

Yeah, you betcha, I sure in the hell hope that chunky becomes acceptable within the gay community. And that thin remains in.

And that it’s even still OK to be buff, too. 

P.S. I stumbled upon a Slate article critical of the New York Times piece on potbellies.

I hate Slate. First of all, it’s owned by mega-corporation MSN, so I’ve always been suspect of Slate from the get-go. Secondly, the writers always seem to look down upon their audience.

Anyway, the Slate writer writes that the New York Times writer “names no leader of potbelly hipness and uncovers no evidence of hip potbellies in the cinema, the stage, the concert hall, the night club or elsewhere. It’s just these random guts strolling around New York.”

OK, it’s not like they’re going to do a scientific study on the critically important subject of the hipness of potbellies, but the New York Times writer might be correct. And if potbellies are just now becoming hip, it would take a little bit of time for that fact to be reflected in the popular culture (duh!).

It seems to me that in times of economic downturn, people might focus less on the extras, less on the cosmetic. If you can’t make your house payment, maybe the status of your abdominal muscles isn’t so important to you anymore.

Time will tell whether or not the bulge is the new black.

*I put quotation marks around the word because while physically I am a “bear,” I don’t partake of the bear subculture and I don’t think that I have the “bear” persona.

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