Chris Clarke, eloquent fella that he is, puts into words several things I’ve been thinking about the kinds of insults that liberals will unthinkingly throw at conservatives:
A reader, after considering my post on civility, sent a note asking whether the notion of justifiable incivility might not pose the threat of blowback, of giving some in the left camp perceived license to offend the usual victims of ridicule in this society. The reader pointed out the recent rise of the cliché “clutching [his/er] pearls,” used to signify either feigned or exaggerated outrage, usually targeted at a male in an attempt to mock. There is, after all, nothing men consider a greater insult than being called a woman. Witness the continuing use of the word “pussy” as a synonym for “coward.” Gay men and lesbians come in for their unfair share of abuse by metaphor, and transgender people fare worse: Google on “Ann Coulter” and “Adam’s apple” for examples of that latter one. I’ve written before about using slurs against the mentally disabled. And the racist invective unleashed by a few scattered blog commenters against people like Michelle Malkin — when there are so many other hammers she hands people to hit her with — continues to astound me, if only because she plays it to her advantage every time and the anti-Asian racist commenters still never learn that they’re helping her.
These kinds of insults are just lazy, and when the insult is a direct one, as with the case of Asian slurs against Malkin, let them say that liberals are the *real* racists, intolerant, etc. Plus, they’re a distraction. They’re also the kinds of things that insult people on the left as well, and piss off certain constituencies — often quite large ones — that are useful to your cause (this kind of thing was demonstrated vividly with the hissy fit John Aravosis threw after some commenters objected to his use of the term “Big Girl” to describe Sen. Pat Roberts; he tried to defend it as a use of “gay vernacular,” then started deleting comments and banning people, and has now put up an invitation to leave if you can’t slavishly agree with him). I do have to say that I disagree with Chris about the pearl-clutching being a feminizing insult because it’s increasingly applied to men — I, personally, use it regardless of gender because it so perfectly captures faux-outrage.
But Chris points out an insult that’s employed quite frequently that doesn’t always get questioned, even though people like him (and me) are alienated and told that we’re Less Than as a result:
And my reader sent me a link to this as well. It’s not particularly unusual, as offensive tropes go. The person they target has earned his measure of insult for his absurd and abusive politics. But what the posters decide to deride is the man’s weight.
I see this frequently, even with bloggers I like, enjoy and usually find amusing. Kathryn Jean Lopez is a favorite target, as is Jonah “Doughy Pantload” Goldberg, John Podhoretz, Hugh Hewitt and the like. In each case, their politics and personalities provide plenty of fodder for hurling insults at them, so that resorting to making jokes about their appearance and/or weight is just a cheap shot. For one thing, unlike someone like Ann Coulter, who uses short skirts and thinness and blond hair as part of her schtick, and who has made her appearance — and the appearance of other women — part of her politics, none of these people make their own appearance or those of others into an issue. So it’s unfair to attack them on that basis, just as it’s unfair to make racist comments about Michelle Malkin (not because she doesn’t make race an issue — oh, she does — but because the racist comments inevitably revolve around Asian hooker stereotypes and thus have no relevance to her personal racism, which centers on propensity for terrorism. So, pointing out that by her own logic, she, being a Filipina, should be racially profiled because of the existence of Islamic terror groups in the Philippines is fair play; making “fuckee suckee” comments is not. See how that works?).
Chris samples some of the more odious comments generated by the Sadly, No! post, and makes the following observation:
And you know what? That thread is mainly remarkable for the number of people who spoke up to proclaim that they, or the people they loved, were fat. There is much worse fat abuse to be found elsewhere in the left online world. Atrios’ comments come to mind.
While it’s a good sign that there are so many people calling out the fat bashing in that thread, the fact that Chris finds this notable is a sign of how pervasive this kind of thing is and how it usually goes unchallenged. Chris reluctantly posts a (very cute) picture of himself with a jackhammer to make the point that “fat”does not automatically equal “weak,” or “lazy,” or “morally unfit.” The reluctance comes from an awareness that by posting his photo, he’s opening himself up comments by the kind of people who will make judgments about “my character, my habits, my physical strength, my libido, and my intellect with one glance.” And what’s hurtful is that that “kind of people” can also be the kind of people who regularly participate intelligently in comments to liberal blogs and who show awareness of other kinds of abuse, discrimination, and the like. I’ll be honest, that’s a very big reason why I don’t post my photo on the blog, particularly considering the kinds of comments that Jill and Lauren have gotten about their pictures; a bigger reason, of course, is that I want to preserve my anonymity.
Holly mentioned in comments to the FAQ post that she’d like to see me in a moment of sheer incivility. She almost got her wish in this post. There is part of me that wants to react with outrage at the insinuations that obesity necessarily means weakness, most of them surely leveled by people who have never once flung a 60-pound jackhammer around for two and a half days. In fact, I will go so far as to invite any of the fat-bashing “Sadly, No” commenters to accompany me on a Diablo climb. It’s only 3700 feet or so total climb, and 13 miles. And it takes me five and a half, six hours to do it. Counting the usual half hour or so of resting that includes, that means an average speed of just over two miles an hour. Surely they can match that pace up all those switchbacks. And then back down. And then again the next weekend. With six or so miles run during the intervening week. That’s not much exercise at all. They couldn’t possibly have as much trouble keeping up with me physically as they would intellectually. Could they?
But I won’t be that uncivil. (Or I won’t continue to be, anyway.) For one thing, all that exercise has gotten my blood pressure down into the low normal range, and I’d hate to mess that up. For another, my sense is that most of the really inane anti-fat slurs are written by the young, and I have the wisdom that comes from perspective, and I know that when most of them reach, oh, say, 38 or so a new generation of jerks will be saying similar things about their fat asses. And the painted ponies go up and down, though not without complaint if I’m sitting on one.
There’s more in Chris’s post, but I want to discuss that separately. I hope to have a post worked up tomorrow (really, later today).
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