Thursday, September 30, 2010

With friends like these...

Matt Taibbi's "inside" look at the Tea Party, just published in Rolling Stone, is entertaining, by all accounts. PZ Myers linked it on AlterNet, and I immediately started brawling with the people who loved it.

First page of article. I winced and then, just started banging my head against the wall:

Scanning the thousands of hopped-up faces in the crowd, I am immediately struck by two things. One is that there isn't a single black person here. The other is the truly awesome quantity of medical hardware: Seemingly every third person in the place is sucking oxygen from a tank or propping their giant atrophied glutes on motorized wheelchair-scooters. As Palin launches into her Ronald Reagan impression — "Government's not the solution! Government's the problem!" — the person sitting next to me leans over and explains.

"The scooters are because of Medicare," he whispers helpfully. "They have these commercials down here: 'You won't even have to pay for your scooter! Medicare will pay!' Practically everyone in Kentucky has one."

A hall full of elderly white people in Medicare-paid scooters, railing against government spending and imagining themselves revolutionaries as they cheer on the vice-presidential puppet hand-picked by the GOP establishment. If there exists a better snapshot of everything the Tea Party represents, I can't imagine it.

After Palin wraps up, I race to the parking lot in search of departing Medicare-motor-scooter conservatives.
Oh ha ha ha! Ain't gimps funny? Ain't old people funny? And add FAT OLD GIMPS altogether in one whole sentence, and you have to hold onto your ribcage from laughing so hard.

"Giant atrophied glutes?" "Sucking oxygen?"

Is this necessary?

Actually, this superior-sounding bullshit is the problem, as I tried (vainly) to explain to Taibbi's enthusiastic AlterNet fans.

I have heartily disliked what Alan Keyes and Thomas Sowell have said, but I don't resort to race-baiting over it. I have heartily disagreed with Andrew Sullivan, but I don't call him a faggot or jokey joke about HIV. Etc. Isn't there a way to disagree with these folks, even call attention to the obvious discrepancies in their logic, WITHOUT being an ill-behaved, ageist, ableist LOUT?

Well, hey, whaddaya know, YES THERE IS... I did it MYSELF in my piece on the Tea Partiers at the Town Hall meeting in Travelers Rest. I made note of the fact that many of these people were/are old, but I was not an asshole about it and did not find assholism necessary to make my point. Matt Taibbi and other college kidz, take heed.

This is why we are losing.

The condescension and prep-school arrogance with which a rich kid like Taibbi (son of Mike Taibbi, four-time-Emmy winning journalist for NBC) makes fun of disabled old people in a poor, ignorant, hardscrabble state like Kentucky... well, it just makes me nauseous. (NOTE to Taibbi: Coal mining usually leads to people sucking on oxygen, in case you didn't know... you might want to keep that in mind the next time you turn on your lights or fire up your fancy laptop: someone is sucking on oxygen just so you were able to do that cheaply.)

I mean, if those Kentuckians had gone to Concord Academy with Matt Taibbi? Maybe they'd know the stuff he knows. And maybe they'd have healthy glutes and not be sucking on oxygen. He knows that, right?

I guess it's a good article. Yall can let me know. I quit reading after the first page. I don't need to be insulted, and those people are of my class and background.

The fact that *I* am insulted, and I ACTUALLY AGREE WITH TAIBBI'S POLITICS REGARDING THE TEA PARTY?!? (I am significantly to the left of Taibbi, in all honesty.) What does this mean?

It means we're in trouble. Do you see that we are in trouble? Please SCALE BACK the classism and elitism, if you really want to SCALE BACK the Tea Party.

Or do you?

Does it just feel good to be funny and have everyone pat you on the back and tell you how clever you are, Matt Taibbi, as PZ Myers and all his friends do? (And could PZ Myers get elected as dog catcher?) Because if that is all it is? We don't need friends like these. Not at all. After all, Matt, your career will be fine, you went to Concord Academy, your daddy has 4 Emmies. You can afford to throw spitballs and be superior. The rest of us? We are rightly worried about our futures and our lives, if the Tea Party should win.

To Matt Taibbi, its about furthering his career and being lauded for his wit, but for US, it is life or death.

And here the preppie is, waving a fucking red flag in front of the proverbial bull.

(((recommences banging head on wall)))


EDIT OCT 1st: This reply to my comments over at AlterNet, was just too amazing not to cross-post here. And remember, these are the progressives talking:
And how do you know these people were disabled? NO. The scooters, chairs, and oxygen tanks usually aren't for "disabled" people. Go to Florida, NC, and other areas where Tea-Partiers have a strong hold, and see how many 50+ people go around on scooters simply because they ALLOWED THEIR MUSCLES TO ATROPHY, and a scooter helps them avoid exercising. (Same with the oxygen tank -- it's not only people with asthma and emphysema, its lazy people that get winded cuz they are so out of shape their heart and lungs can't keep up if they actually start moving around)

Not because they are disabled -- but because they are winded, and lazy, and haven't exercised in years.

And it was more targeting "motorized scooters" than wheelchairs.

And now their lazy asses are sucking 50-70% of our nations medical expenses on avoidable chronic illnesses caused by our lazy-ass lifestyles and eating habits, that tea-partiers will defend to the last breath their right to have. (God forbid we legislate and regulate High fructose Corn Syrup, Trans-fats, or give tax breaks for people who exercise, etc...)
No overt ageism, ableism or fat-hating there, huh? I replied:
How do I know they are disabled? It's Kentucky, and they are likely coal miners who breathed too much coal dust... that's the reason for the oxygen, which you can't get without a prescription. And why don't you know that? It's easy to see what kind of crowd you hang with.

And that is exactly my point... thank you for making it for me so well.

On another note, it just kills me that some of the hardest working people on the planet are assumed to be lazy, instead of their bodies breaking down from overwork and coal mining... when your body breaks down, exercise is terribly painful. I assume everyone knows that too, but I suddenly get it. As Michael Harrington said in THE OTHER AMERICA (paraphrasing): they just don't see these people for who they really are, and how they hold everything together.--DD 10/1/10


Lindsay said...

Wow, that Matt Taibbi guy is sure an asshole.

Between the piece you quoted, and a passage from this book he co-wrote about his experiences writing for the Russian newspaper the eXile that a Pandagon commenter quoted, he seems seriously lacking in empathy for anybody.

D. said...

Many years ago, I went with a friend to a concert of non-critic's-darlings. Had a perfectly pleasant (though not transcendent, alas) time, came home, picked up the paper the next morning.

The reviewer did not care for the stars. More, the reviewer did not care for the audience. There were middle-aged people, and people with children and some young people and people who could not possibly be in either star's demographic.

So. I sat down and gave him both barrels. He had managed to screw up a couple of facts (if you are going to say that Star X has not had a hit in more than a decade, and Star X's last hit was 7 years ago, that rather undermines your gravitas) and attributed to laziness what was in fact surgical intervention in Star Y. Also, I explained that reviewing the audience rather than the performance was less than useful, because one doesn't go to a concert to see the audience.

He has not reviewed the audience since. (I wish I still had a copy of the letter. Damn.)

Correcting someone with rectocranial inversion without being insulting is a lot of work. Perhaps Mr. Taibbi is too lazy to do that.

DaisyDeadhead said...

Now I've got a million motorized scooter ads on my blog. Oh goody.

My take on the motorized scooters is exactly that of Vladimir Lenin when he said "Give em enough rope"...first the bosses wring your life out of you, so they can get rich, then they sell you a scooter after they wreck your body. (And they have figured out how to get the govt to pay for it? You'd think they'd be complimenting them on their capitalist ingenuity instead of criticizing them!)

What a thoroughly fucked up situation... but by all means, lets blame the poor, not the rich, for that.

Anonymous said...

Hugo Schwyzer had a post to the same effect a few weeks ago when he caught hinslef doing the saem thing - the difference being that he had the humanity, humility and moral awareness ot catch and correct himnself, which this little asshole clearly does not have.

Tell me if yopu see the same thing in the Tea Party, but I sense a deep sense of exclusion and laineation in them. Sneering and more exclusion seems like the pretty obviously counter-productive approach, wand bridge-building and appelas to common values seems like the pretty obviously productive approach.

I don't expect Taibbi the get this. I don't expect him to understand much of anything about America in such a short time, a couple three generations, and certainly not if he's never gotten beyond his comfortable leafy, preppy high-achieving cocoon.

Dave Dubya said...

Your humanity and compassion are rare in not only the general population, but within the confines of the left as well. The anger and intolerance of the teabaggers triggers a reactive anger and intolerance in anti-teabaggers. Your consciousnees and conscience have evolved beyond the animal flight or fight reaction into a thoughtful and humane perspective.

If we hate teabaggers we get nowhere, and fall into the same trap they are in. If we regard them as fellow Americans, and even family, they will be more inclined to at least listen to us, and maybe less inclined to feed into the hateful indoctrination from their leaders.

Well done.

La Lubu said...

Thank you, Daisy. It never ceases to amaze me the number of people who willfully forget that not everyone has a plush, well-paid desk job to come home from. Even people who should know better; who grew up with parents who worked at physical jobs (which isn't true for Taibbi, but is for many of his fans). It reminds me so much of the phenomenon attorneys in rape cases speak of---that female jurors are harder on the victim than male jurors. A way of separating oneself from the trauma one could so easily be victim to oneself.

Anonymous said...

He's perfectly justified to snark about the fact that most of these anti-government protesters are on Medicaid, and listing the number of scooters and oxygen tanks is relevant--but Taibbi always has to be gratuitously nasty, and that means he can't be an effective social critic.

~ Medea

Anonymous said...

Yes, I see the comments about the senior citizens with the mobility scooters in much the same way as you, Daisy.

There's a sort of dismissive attitude going on there - that is fundamentally rooted in a sort of contempt and prejudiced assumption that because these people are disabled and old they are to be judged as failures on that - as opposed to judging them by what they think and do.

I'm not American and I don't know much about the 'Tea Party' phenomenon, but from what I've heard of them they seem to be a far right (bordering on fascist?) organisation that holds some very bigoted opinions.

So, yeah, I wouldn't be in agreement with them - not to mention that I probably wouldn't be very popular with them anyway as I'm transsexual.

However, certain so-called 'progressives' seem to hold some very bigoted and very snobbish opinions, too. Unfortunately, some of these people seem to have received the benefit of a very expensive education and pride themselves on being 'cultured', too. Maybe it's what Gandhi meant with that quote about being disappointed with the 'hardness of heart of the educated'.

"Does it just feel good to be funny and have everyone pat you on the back and tell you how clever you are, Matt Taibbi, as PZ Myers and all his friends do? (And could PZ Myers get elected as dog catcher?)"

You found this with PZ Myers' Pharyngula blog, too?

Maybe this is a similar thing to Matt Taibbi bringing in the fact that some of the Tea Party supporters are disabled senior citizens and using that aspect to attack them as opposed to mounting a critique of their political opinions, but....(pause for breath:)...

PZ Myers mocked Vatican Priests involved in the paedophile scandals as 'transvestites' in one of his blog posts and when I posted on there criticizing him for doing this I couldn't believe the amount of bile and bigotry that I got from his supporters.

Okay, so initially I'd never heard of PZ Myers before and reading his post I automatically assumed that he was some sort of right-wing KKK type person. Suffice to say his fans were not very pleased that I had come to this conclusion and they just let rip on me!

Admittedly, I did lose my temper with them quite a bit which ended up in PZ banning me - you can find me in his famed Dungeon if you're curious to know what actually happened - as opposed to my own take on it.

Anyway, during the course of that particular thread I got quite a bit of abuse from them for being in their eyes a 'troll', amongst other things getting called an "illiterate toad"; someone telling me that they hoped I would "die in a fire"; numerous references to me as "it" or sometimes "he/she/it" and being addressed as "shim" based purely on their knowledge of me being a transwoman...anyway, if you check out that particular post you can see for yourself and make your own conclusions.

Not saying that I behaved very well on there - but I would have hoped that as well as reining me in PZ Myers would have addressed some of the abuse and bigoted assumptions that his regular posters were indulging in, too.

Instead, he didn't even want to lower himself to addressing me just once as to why I thought his original post was transphobic and, after banning me, disappointingly fell back on that old, classic sexist, misogynist and transphobic trick by claiming to the other posters on there that I was really a man called (somewhat bizarrely because it's never actually been my name) "Donald".

Oh dear, a woman who is aggressive must really be a man then, eh PZ? Strange sort of conclusion to make for an oft self-proclaimed and committed "anti-sexist" such as you, eh?

Anyway, good post, thanks for that.


white rabbit said...

Marx wrote rather well but Lenin was dead boring.

Jus saying.

I will want a mobility scooter when I am very old, I will drive it very recklessly and misbehave generally :D

DaisyDeadhead said...

Anon, I too got into a brawl w/PZ Myers, so I can certainly relate. I was called white trash, low class, fit for scrubbing toilets (I don't see anything wrong w/scrubbing toilets, since I do shit in them and someone has to do it, but they obviously are far above wiping their own dirty toilets!) and other insults that had nothing to do w/what we were arguing about. At least, I didn't think it did... now I realize that to defend religious belief in any way is ALSO considered a white trash thing to do over there.

PZ did some crazy stuff with the host (I should capitalize Host, but my Catholicism has seriously lapsed) and then wrote about it, apparently unaware that Mary McCarthy and Mary Gordon already wrote about angry schoolgirls stabbing the Host with pencils and vomiting it up and so forth... and of course, the piece de resistance, the Marquis De Sade (in The Memoirs of a Paris Madame) forced some poor French Catholic chambermaid to put a consecrated host up her anus before raping her... so PZ's little desecration-stunts weren't much by comparison... while also demonstrating that he is significantly literature-impaired! (PZ, READ SOME BOOKS, DUDE, like, real ones, not about boring scientific shit, but about THE HUMAN HEART AND SOUL.)

In short, it had all been done before, and lots better, but nobody told PZ.

So, the transvestite insult does not surprise me in the least... he is the kind of person who probably called boys "girls" as insults when he was a kid, and thought that was damned witty.

Anonymous said...

"Anon, I too got into a brawl w/PZ Myers, so I can certainly relate. I was called white trash, low class, fit for scrubbing toilets..."

That's terrible, Daisy. These people's attitudes are almost pre-French Revolution in their arrogance and they sound as if they've led such privileged, sheltered existences that they are totally ignorant of how the rest of us (who have to work and don't come from wealthy backgrounds) live.

Quite a few of the people on that blog are pathetic snobs yet, ironically, they regard themselves as being at the cutting edge of progressive thought. Have they actually stepped outside of themselves for once and ever considered how others may see them. A certain Robbie Burns quote springs to mind:)

Recently, I also witnessed one of the posters on there pointing out to someone from a non-academic background who happened to stumble on their online community/clique (and who quickly became unpopular with them) that since he, as a history phd, found it difficult to grasp a certain intellectual concept then he found it difficult to believe that a 'mere' construction worker would be able to do so.

I honestly didn't realise that such blatant, unreconstructed snobbery still exists in the 21st century - but apparently it does. I even considered for a while as to whether or not Pharyngula was actually a satirical site; a send-up of the pretensions and idiosyncrasies of pseudo-intellectual hypocrites.

Rather pathetically, it's almost as if some of them are trying to outdo each other when the 'community' engages in a frenzy of what they call 'troll-stomping'. As for the definition of 'troll'...on Pharyngula it seems to equate to anyone who arrives out of the blue and has a different opinion to the vociferous core of cyberbullies on there - and they always do seem to attack in a pack (usually all against one).

Wonder if they've ever arrived onto an online community alone (as a stranger) and such a thing has happened to any of them? Or are they too scared to venture outside their cosy little online world where people might disagree with them?

PZ Myers comes across as quite a weak person. I get the impression that despite the all-powerful, banhammer weilding macho overlord image that he famously likes to cultivate the bottom line is that at the end of the day he will always go with what the majority of the loudest, most aggressive posters on his blog believe and will kowtow to their wishes. He's energetic enough in picking individual strangers up on what the ruling 'in-crowd' on there see (sometimes rightly) as their sexism, racism, harassment and bullying yet when the regulars are guilty of exactly the same he remains silent - and is even known to join in.

Does seem like a sad waste of an expensive education to me - and a classic example of a group of people who mistake their own weakness for strength.

"I will want a mobility scooter when I am very old, I will drive it very recklessly and misbehave generally :D"

Yep, give 'em hell, white rabbit:)!


passinthru said...

Okay, but what's the issue with Concord Academy? Or are people who go to boarding school just naturally unentitled to opinions?

DaisyDeadhead said...

passinthru, what's Matt Taibbi's issue with Kentucky? Can't he go to some Connecticut yacht club and find people who also hold these views, and with lots more money to make them into law? But hey, what fun is that? He would lose the whole make-fun-
of-the-yahoos angle and easy jokes.

Just subjecting him to a little of his own class warfare.

I was also juxtaposing his background and the people he was writing about; the distance between them. He was very careful to maintain that difference, and that is usually the mark of a rich kid... looked it up and yep, there it is. So I included it, just as HE got to decide what were important, defining charactistics of the poor people he interviewed.

Anonymous said...

Taibbi is spot on. These people, who you assume are hard working white folks, are just as likely racists. They have become pawns of the Roves and the Koch brothers who treat them as useful fools. If you look, you will find most of their beliefs are based on hate for those not like us.
Save your concerns for more deserving people.

DaisyDeadhead said...

Anon, I assume all white folks, hard working and not, are racists. Including you, if you're white, and me too.

Do you mean they are not well-behaved liberal white people who "acknowledge" and are "working on" their racism? Well, they probably aren't, but then you sound like you think you have your own racism all figured out too and are ready to judge others.

I think the difference is, I don't set myself above them, and you do. They sound like people I know and who could be in my family; which means some are racist and some are not.

All working class people are my concern, she said, singing verse two of the Internationale. ;) And my primary concern is grappling with these differences (such as race and ethnicity) that the ruling classes currently use to divide us. Taibbi will never understand that. And apparently neither do you.