Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Tales from the Swamp

All photos in this post are of the Lake Conestee, SC nature preserve.


I have not been updating regularly since I have been hanging out in the swamp. Hope you like my photos of Lake Conestee swamps! It is an amazing and beautiful place. (As always, you can click all photos to enlarge.)

I decided my whole motif would be SWAMPS, since I realized, SWAMPS is where its at. As we used to say.

Which swamp should I cover first?

First up, the swamp of the kkk, which has been organizing here in South Carolina. They scheduled a rally for July 25th, so we had a "counter-rally" here in Greenville--although I would have preferred going down to Abbeville, where they are. Scary, but not so bad if we went in a large group. As I have written here before, I have disrupted one kkk rally (where I also got on the History channel) and nearly got killed at the second one (mentioned in passing here), so I appreciate the importance of traveling in a large group.

But the peaceniks organizing the rally didn't want any possibility of violent altercations. This is totally understandable, but... meh. Hey, the kkk invited everyone to come, didn't they? That is accepting an invitation, not starting an altercation. But yes, I guess that's quibbling.

It was a good protest rally, extremely well-behaved, where I saw the wonderful Camille Lewis and we did a selfie together. I was pleased by all the positive vibes, but I was aggravated that anyone believed the kkk would care what we were doing. I would like to MAKE THEM CARE. Like that guy years ago who drove his car into the Redneck Shop (kkk outpost) in Laurens County. Okay, maybe not that extreme, but something to garner serious media attention.

It is interesting that when I posted about the uptick in kkk activity on Tumblr, I was ignored. (I guess the kkk is just too "Mississippi Burning" for their taste? Old school. Not hip-hop enough.) At least they do seem to care about the recent racial unrest in Ferguson, Missouri, which is pretty bad. The police shooting of Michael Brown has ignited days of turmoil and rioting. The National Guard is there now, and it isn't any quieter.

No Justice, No peace.

The conservatives often claim that slogan is a "veiled threat"--but actually, it is simply a naked fact.

One of the pieces I was working on was about the last year I have spent on Tumblr, which is most assuredly one of the major cesspools of the world wide web. My time there is fast winding down, although I still enjoy all the photos of baby goats, weird art and old rock stars. (Not to mention stunning photos of LIZ!)

My consigliere Gregg asked me, live on the radio* even, why I went to a place that drives me crazy, and I answered honestly: because its where all the "social justice warriors" are now, and as a lefty, feminist, vegetarian (etc), I felt that it was my JOB; I needed to keep tabs on the place. And of course, I got sucked right in... swamps can be dangerous, especially when they FLOOD ALL OVER THE PLACE. Yigh!

Some of the arguments I engaged in were fairly predictable, especially after I posted THIS about one of the main Tumblr stars who is likely a cop (or equivalent), and after I figured out who some of the primary shit-stirrers are over there. Lo and behold... this gang includes people from Salon Rose, that old email list I was on. I am not surprised at all, since I could spot some of the same arguments that were first presented on the list, arguments I once decided were far too outlandish to be taken seriously. These arguments are now considered acceptable, i.e. you shouldn't say penises are male, since (some) trans women have them too. This is patently ridiculous. (Some humans don't have legs, so should we not say humans have legs? And there are far more humans missing legs than trans women with penises.) The recent article by Michelle Goldberg in the New Yorker about radical feminism vs trans feminism got everybody all worked up again. Lots of people who didn't know how "bad" the whole feud had become, are now reading this stuff for the first time. Tumblr is the incubator for most of this madness.

I found it well-nigh impossible not to get pulled into the swamp, since due to the email list, I know the colorful (and constantly-rewritten) personal histories of many of the instigating parties. Many are fakes; some are "trans women" not even living as women at all (but that doesn't stop them from knowing absolutely everything about womanhood). They have repeatedly told me they are far more woman than I could ever be. When I ask them what "woman" means, no answers. None will define this thing, WOMAN, that they claim they are. So I guess they ARE more woman than me, since it is apparently whatever they say it is.

In addition, there was the rape of a trans woman that has been covered up, and the rape-apologist squad have acted exactly like any other marauding gang, denying any responsibility towards the mentally ill person who was targeted. This made me furious, and when I mentioned it (and asked why are they covering it up), they accused me of trying to use this person's rape as a weapon to hurt trans women, which infuriated me even more. (The details, including names, links and circumstances, are in comments on this post.) I guess when a trans woman is ACTUALLY harmed, well, that is of no real consequence. Why are cis women supposed to take violence against trans women seriously, when the trans women themselves won't do it? Oh wait, did I mention the perp is another trans woman, a popular, charismatic organizer of conventions? Of course she is. And she has the enthusiastic backing of other trans women, so the violence perpetrated against Elle doesn't really count.

It only counts when they say it counts.

Forgive me if I don't take your bullshit seriously, gals.

But even as I argued with people who are (obviously) far more woman than me, I also argued with people who know feminism better than I do. The self-described "Michael Jordan of radical feminism", Nextyearsgirl, announces (regularly) that anyone who is in favor of rights for sex workers is anti-feminist.

This is like saying whoever is pro-unions cannot also be anti-capitalist; it makes no sense.

I asked her (without a single cuss word and totally respectfully) if she realized that for some women, sex work is a step UP the economic ladder? Is working a grueling and horrific 48-hour work week in a textile mill REALLY better than 3 hours of web-cam work, if you make the same amount of money? I had extensive varicose veins surgery for standing on my feet at work for hours, days, weeks, months, years. Why is that supposed to be ethically superior to a couple of hours dancing in the buff or showing one's body parts on a webcam, anonymously? Both are exploitative occupations--is one really more exploitative than the other? And why? I went from scrubbing toilets to dancing wearing pasties (it was against the law to be totally naked in those days, she said, sounding terribly old) and made 3 times the money. Which work do you think was harder? (Are more hours supposedly more holy or something?)

Of course, nextyearsgirl is an upper-middle-class college girl who has been supported by her parents and has never had to make these kinds of choices. She has no children and no worries, and didn't answer a single one of my questions listed in the above-paragraph, which were asked honestly and in the spirit of feminist debate. She simply made fun of me for even asking. Unbelievably, this is a heavy theory-head too, this is no rude adolescent. I am a feminist activist of over 40+ years standing, one of the people responsible for many of the changes she takes utterly for granted. And yet, she told her followers to unfollow me en masse since my mind was "scrambled by drugs decades ago." (about 20 of her followers obediently took her orders and instantly made me persona non grata--she is obviously a very important Tumblr swamp feminist, which should probably not be confused with real feminism. More about which in due course.)

And by the way, did you catch that?

Yes, nextyearsgirl claims to "care" about the sex workers, but then makes fun of a drug addict who quit 32 years ago. I wonder what she thinks of women who are still suffering from addiction? Wait, she told us, didn't she? They are not to be listened to.

Since it is estimated that drug addiction among sex workers is very, very high (figures range from 75-95%), nextyearsgirl makes it very clear she doesn't think sex workers with addiction issues should be listened to. I mean, *I* don't even qualify as worthy of listening to, and I am a 56-year-old grandma/Second Waver, my drug abuse safely 32 years in the past.

I think we know what she must think of drug addicts in the PRESENT, and by extension, what she thinks of sex workers with these problems: NOT TO BE LISTENED TO. BRAINS SCRAMBLED.

These are the "feminists" who purport to care about sex workers. Scratch the surface, and observe the unbridled contempt bubbling to the surface.

Swamp, I say, swamp.

I was also working on a companion piece titled "How fundamentalist Christianity gave birth to Tumblr's Social Justice Activists"--so I could finally explain the whole thing to Tumblr-skeptics like Gregg, but then decided it wasn't worth it.

Besides, I realized I could say it in a paragraph or two, during my many conversations with South Carolina Boy about the entire phenomenon. (He went to a southern Christian college, so he knows this stuff.)


As Harold Bloom said in The American Religion, there is a heavily-gnostic strain in American Christianity. The Reformation abolished sacraments (for the most part) as arbiters of belief or religious devotion. No intermediaries between Man and God! The result: A Christian was no longer who the Church said it was, a Christian is whoever claims they are one.

This is how we have arrived at the unfortunate point where we have Christians who are pro-global warming and pro-war. Because Christian is whatever they say it is, they are answerable to no one. If some preacher gives them static, they just move on to another one. And if that preacher wants their money/donations, he will not challenge them when they do unChristian things or offer unChristian politics. He will look the other way.

Fundamentalist Christianity owes no one anything, it is entirely internal. "You ask me how I know He Lives/He Lives within my heart!" goes the Protestant hymn. It is about your state of mind. You can now do whatever you want, short of living openly as gay (although many Christians do, and see no contradiction in doing so) and/or being a pimp or dope dealer (ditto). Divorce, carousing, drinking, gambling, porn, all is fine as long as nobody sees you (and sometimes, even if they do). Your politics can defy Jesus' orders to feed the poor and visit the imprisoned; in fact you can spit all over the poor and KILL the imprisoned, and its all okay, just as long as you call yourself a Baptist.

And now we have the same thing with those magic words, SOCIAL JUSTICE ACTIVIST.

People say they are, so... they are. Poof. No work required. In fact, nothing is required, that I can see.

The actual words though? Social justice? What does that mean? And WHERE (pray tell) is this mythical ACTIVISM? Answer: there isn't any. If you want to shut the kids up on Tumblr, just ask what they have actually DONE in real life. (Some of them reply with really offensive crap such as, "That's ableist to ask what we've done!"-- as if disabled people didn't build one of the most successful social justice activist movements of ALL TIME!!!! Yeesh.)

So we now have a collection of "social justice activists" who have no actual experience in activism. None. Zip. And when you refer to the failures and successes of past social justice activism, they have no clue what you are talking about (this is how I figured out they were mostly posturing fakes). This is why we have someone claiming to "care" about sex workers and yet doesn't hesitate to show their class contempt and open derision for drug addicts... no actual experience on the ground. Or she would KNOW who the sex workers are and she wouldn't say something that makes her look like a society-girl dilettante. Michael Jordan, indeed.

And that's how fundamentalism impacts social justice: you think, therefore you are. You are not required to actually do anything, but think the right thoughts. Use the right language and position yourself the right way. Follow the right people on Tumblr. Reblog the right people. But actually get out in the streets and DO anything?

No. They don't know how. They are resoundingly ignorant of even their own streets and neighborhoods. They can't organize the people on Tumblr who already talk exactly like they do and recognize all of their arcane cultural references, so how do they think they will organize people who don't think like they do and don't understand what they are talking about?

Answer: They don't plan to do any such thing. They simply type their deep thoughts and heavy theory on Tumblr, and hopefully, some grunt will do the job. Is that what they expect to happen?

And after thinking about this awhile, that's when I remembered Shelby Steele.

Author Shelby Steele wrote about his experience as a black teacher who opposed Affirmative Action, which he believes actually harms black kids. His proof was that many (most?) black students drop out of college in their 2nd or 3rd year. He felt these students were not fully ready for academic life, since the poor-to-mediocre public schools they came from were not up to par in the first place. Further, he believes their "failure" in college set them back psychologically, made them feel worse than it would have if they had not been given any extra help. This is the old argument about how charity can be harmful, only this time, he was talking about his own kids and his own observations as a college professor. He also wrote about being raised under Jim Crow, and what it was like to attend segregated schools himself.

So what happened?

Well, after Steele started to label himself a conservative, nice liberal white people refused to sit next to him at upscale dinner parties. (Apparently, the irony of this situation was totally lost on the whites, if not on Steele.) His opinions were beyond the pale, you should pardon expression. White liberal students from places like Beverly Hills and Central Park West started screaming at him during speaking engagements. Whites not allowing a black man to speak, now where have I heard THAT before? But its okay, since this is a conservative black man they are policing.

So we have spoiled brats who have been pampered since they were in utero, screaming "Racist!" at a black man who was raised under Jim Crow. An appalling and sordid spectacle, but it describes Tumblr social justice perfectly. I can think of no better illustration.

How does this situation happen, asked Steele, in his book A Dream Deferred: The Second Betrayal of Black Freedom in America. He has facts and figures suggesting that Affirmative Action is an overall negative and he is ready to debate the subject with whomever is willing. Blacks will, he said, but whites won't. Why not?

Steele says that for white people, being in favor of Affirmative Action is not about what is good for black students. They have no idea what is good for black students; they probably don't even know any. For whites, taking the correct liberal position is about LOOKING GOOD TO OTHERS. If you are white, to declare oneself anti-racist is to be A GOOD PERSON. It doesn't mean actually doing anything or thinking about things in depth, it means having the correct opinions and thereby proving you are on the side of the angels. It means posturing. Because if you argue, you might say the wrong thing, you might give yourself away as not having a clue... since you likely don't. Better to pretend you know everything, repeat the popular boilerplate, and shut up.

And so it is now with the Social Justice crowd on Tumblr. It isn't about honest and well-meaning debate, as I tried to discuss things reasonably with nextyearsgirl. It is about HAVING THE CORRECT OPINIONS. It is about LOOKING GOOD and being A GOOD PERSON. If you actually compromise yourself (as I have, as Shelby Steele has) and DO THINGS, well, you leave yourself open to criticism. You also garner some real experience and make observations, as Steele did over a lifetime of teaching African-American students. Disagree with him all you want, but he is the father of black kids and has taught black kids for eons, and was one himself; he knows his stuff. He speaks out of concern for the educational system and how it impacts African Americans in general. Show respect for his process, if you want respect for yours, and MAKE THE ARGUMENTS.

If you can't, he has won, and you should have the good grace to admit it.


But this is the swamp. Where they dump dead bodies and stuff. Its muddy, the water isn't clear. Strange noises and gurgles. We can expect more of the swamp as long as fakes and frauds contaminate the internet. At least, we can keep the troublemakers confined to their gurgling, oozing swampy spaces. As long as Reddit and Tumblr exist, perhaps it will keep the lunatics away from the rest of us.

Or does it just emit that nasty swamp gas that covers everything with its stench? Ewwww.


I have to thank the wonderful HBO series, TRUE DETECTIVE, which also inspired my recent swamp fixation. My spouse and I recently binge-watched the whole first season (Matthew McConaughey is a revelation! Who knew he could do that shit?) and it was terrific. After our binge-watching, I even dreamed about swamps... and the next day, my husband announces that he has located a real one. The rest, as they say, is history. We have spent a lot of time there since.

My apologies for a month-long unannounced blog-break. I will try not to let it happen again. But just look at these photos! Wouldn't YOU get distracted by such a beautiful swamp?

*GOOD NEWS: We are back on WOLI radio! Our show (still called "Occupy the Microphone") is on every Monday at 8-9pm, so we are not doing the daily thing at the present time (which simply exhausted everyone trying to come up with appropriate and timely topics). We don't have a podcast up and running yet, since we are still getting our radio-selves together. In addition, Gregg's mother-in-law passed away at home this weekend after a long illness (see this post for more).

Rest in peace, Martha.

Our best wishes are with Gregg, his spouse and children; as well as Martha's caregivers, Krystine and Josh, both beautiful people. (this being a small town, I once worked with Josh elsewhere too.) I can only hope to be able to depend on such gentle, sweet souls when I am old and frail.