Thursday, November 29, 2012

Down the Primrose Path

Roy Edroso has another interesting RightWing-watch post at alicublog today, about J. R. Dunn, a rightblogger who blames the excesses and prominence of Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter (and their ilk) on liberals.
...the third major class of response, that of embracing the stereotype, of taking it on as a kind of costume, and even pushing it farther than the left themselves. I knew a noted spokesman for one of the major conservative media organizations who used to appear at public lectures with two heavy-set young men standing at either side of the lectern wearing camo fatigues and sunglasses, thus turning himself from conservative spokesman into Benito Mussolini. This same kind of behavior can be found at all levels of the movement from comment threads all the way to the top. Rush indulges in it all too often. Ann Coulter has made a career of it. While definitely a crowd-pleaser, it is, in the end, self-defeating. These stereotypes were constructed by the left for a reason -- to manipulate the public at large, ignorant of political subtleties and unfamiliar with doctrine, into certain visceral reactions to conservatives and their ideas. They were created to destroy conservatives. Why play along with them?
I dunno, maybe because it's fun?  Or, as Edroso proposes, because it sells?  If either Limbaugh or Coulter were to, you know, moderate their shtick, their audiences would dry up.  And it's what they know how to do.  (The Left has had its own clowns, after all; and while I might agree that the Right and the corporate media enjoyed using them as bugaboos to alarm the marks, I don't think they were "constructed by the" right, not even for a reason.)

Roy supplies another quotation from the same posting:
Calling Sandra Fluke a "slut" merely generated sympathy for her. Turning her into a clown uncertain what to do with a condom if one was handed to her would have shut the whole campaign down in short order. (How about the Facebook "Sandra Fluke Condom Support Group"?)
This sort of thing is always handy when someone on the right (my own RWA1 for example) tries to paint himself as a reasonable, sensible, moderate kind of conservative as opposed to all those crazy extremists who are hurting the cause.  Just when you start to sympathize with them a little, they let slip that they're just as bigoted and irrational as the clowns they're denouncing; they just want to keep their wack under cover, for PR purposes.

But then, in comments, the discussion took an interesting turn from the liberal-Democratic side.  Someone wrote:
Its a good example of how conservatives think contraception is ONLY for slutty women to use, and only for the purpose of not getting preggers. They are completely ignorant of its other uses and benefits, like preventing disease, treating cysts, fibroids, etc. etc. and so on. To them, anyone using a contraceptive can only be a: SLUT!!!11!
This is a good example of how liberals let the Right frame the debate.  So what if contraception has other uses?   Right-wing males in general, and the Roman Catholic hierarchy in particular, don't care about that.  The Church is quite willing to let women die in the service of doctrine.  But this commenter seems to equate "contraception" with the Pill.  There are other methods of contraception, like the IUD, the condom, the diaphragm, that don't necessarily prevent disease and have no effect on cysts, fibroids, "etc. etc. and so on."  She also seems to agree (or at least concedes) that "anyone using a contraceptive" for its primary purpose, i.e. preventing conception, "can only be a: SLUT!!!11!"

Another commenter answered her:
I continue to believe that one of the biggest missed opportunities in L'Affair Fluke was the - repeated - failure of anyone in the debate who had a megaphone to point out that the majority of all the "sluts" who use contraception are, in fact, married women.
Yeah, exactly.  I've written about this myself in the past.  The pay-no-attention-to-the-dick-behind-the-curtain approach doesn't work anyhow.  The right-wing males on the committee before which Fluke testified, aren't particularly concerned with women's health (eeuuw, ladyparts!), and neither is their constituency.  Remember the flap over the Susan G. Komen Foundation's decision to stop funding Planned Parenthood?  They were willing to cut off the breast cancer screenings that PP also provides because PP, among other services, provides abortions.  (Also contraceptives, but I don't know if that was a factor.  No matter, it would have also been affected.)  Even women who weren't interested in having an abortion would have lost access to cancer screening.  But who (in the "pro-life" movement, anyway) cares about women dying of breast cancer?  What about the innocent babies?

Of course the corporate media loved the fuss over Sandra Fluke, since the corporate media are mostly owned and run by straight or straight-identified males and reflects their attitudes and hangups; they also prefer spectacle and personalities to issues.  Outside that echo chamber, there was some useful discussion, but it's interesting that the first commenter I quoted fell back on the Right's framing of the subject.  The Right, contrary to J. R. Dunn, is very good at manipulating the public discussion, and manipulating the mainstream into debating issues on their terms.  Most often liberals let them do it.  Instead of arguing that a woman should not have to have a fibroid tumor to have contraception covered by her insurance policy, liberals let Limbaugh frame the debate: Was Sandra Fluke a slut or not?  No, they chorused, she's a nice girl.  And I don't doubt that she is. But even girls who aren't nice -- yes, even "sluts" -- should be covered by their insurance, whether they have cysts or not.

The same thing happened during the controversy over Todd Akin's and Richard Mourdock's remarks about rape later in the year: liberal feminists and their male allies let the debate be about the definition of rape, instead of whether a woman should be able to get an abortion even if she wasn't raped.  Too many feminists -- again, forgetting that most women who seek abortions are married and already mothers -- focused on whether draconian laws restricting abortion should have a rape exception.  Thus they were willing to sell out women who hadn't been raped by letting the Right divert the debate from women's reproductive autonomy to rape.  It is, of course, possible to cover both issues, but as it turned out, Akin and Mourdock managed to channel the controversy into just one channel, and as it turned out, one in which they were more vulnerable.  (Both lost their election campaigns.)  In the process, the question of abortion and women's choices was left untouched, in favor of the forced-birthers' stance.  And it confirmed once again that liberals don't possess the steely rationalism and dedication to reality that they like to imagine they do.  They are, in fact, easily distracted from the central issues in the issues they take on.  In the short run they may win small victories -- Akin and Mourdock were defeated -- but in the long run, I don't think either rape victims or women's access to abortion was helped at all.