Saturday, July 14, 2018

The Usual Riffraff

As I hoped, Poisoned Ivy got better once I was past the preliminaries.  I like the way Toni McNaron used her own experience, the experience of people she knew, and the experiences reported by responded to her questionnaires.  I'm still not happy with her writing, but I can overlook that.

In the chapter on university administrators, she quotes a 1978 article on research similar to hers, by gay academic Louie Crew (he's still alive, bless him):
The following comments come not from the minds of the usual riffraff, but from the graffitic imaginations of persons distinguished by being chairpersons of departments of English in colleges and universities across the United States, writing with anonymity in the margins of a questionnaire.

"Gay Persons" -- do you mean queers?
This is the damndest thing I have ever seen!
Returned with DISGUST!
God forbid!
Tell me, Louie, are you a daisy?
Your questionnaire has been posted on our department bulletin board and has been treated as a joke.
That was forty years ago; Poisoned Ivy was published twenty years later, twenty years ago.  There has been some progress since those days, and few senior academics in the US would write or say such things aloud anymore.  And do you know why?

Because of "political correctness," that's why.  They know that if they said such things aloud, intolerant leftist heresy hunters would start screaming postmodernist, relativist abuse at them.  So they've learned to repress and hide their traditional values, for fear that they'll be attacked as "bigots," even monsters.  America has so far abandoned civility (which, as you can see, is fully compatible with the kind of schoolyard abuse those highly educated men scrawled, while leaving off their names) that these respectable and basically decent academics must cower in fear that the fundamentalist wing of gay advocacy will call the drones on them.

Of course I'm (half) joking; but only half.  I'm exaggerating in my parody of civility fetishists, but not by much.  They'll tout the inarguable progress we've made over the past half century, while conveniently leaving out that that progress was made, not by civility (by which they basically mean hunkering down, keeping quiet, and hoping that bigots will change all by themselves), but by rocking the boat, making waves, complaining, agitating, and demanding that bigots and bigots' enablers change their behavior.

As the examples I linked to show, mainstream sympathy for the most vicious homophobic frothers isn't a product of the Trump era.  Excuses will always be made -- bad excuses, but that I suppose is better than no excuses at all.  What is inexcusable is getting in these guys' faces and telling them that they're bigots.  It doesn't really matter how humble, how civil, how incremental you are: any criticism at all is too much.  Remember the amazing candlelight vigils that, week after week for months without violence, helped bring down South Korean President Park Geun-hye?  It turns out that the South Korean
Defense Security Command (DSC) drew up plans last year to mobilize hundreds of tanks and thousands of troops to quell candlelight protests against then impeached President Park Geun-hye, a civic group claimed Friday.

The Military Human Rights Center for Korea disclosed what it claimed was a DSC document drawn up in March last year to outline ways to impose wartime martial law in case the Constitutional Court rejected the National Assembly's impeachment of Park and kept her in office.

According to the civic group, the DSC suggested responding to candlelight protests by declaring garrison decree first in light of the negative connotations of martial law. If the situation deteriorated further, martial law should be considered, it said.
It's not clear why these plans were abandoned, as they fortunately were.  But you see, even the most civil, best-behaved protests are unacceptable to the powerful.  So we mustn't allow ourselves to be gaslit by apologists for the powerful and the bigoted who try to explain that they wouldn't mind our criticism if we'd just be nicer about it.  They regret the changes that have occurred, and would like to turn back the clock to the Olden Days, when the lowly who weren't meek enough could be thrown out on the street, jailed, or killed.

*"Before Emancipation: Gay Persons As Viewed by Chairpersons in English," in The Gay Academic, ed. Louie Crew (Palm Springs CA: ETC Publications, 1978), p. 3.