Sunday, November 24, 2019

Smarter Than Mayonnaise

I'm caught up with pretty much everything except reading (which I'll never catch up with), so I've run out of excuses for not writing.  Then the Subway where I ate lunch was tuned to a broadcast of one of those Nuremberg rallies we call American professional football, one of the broadcasters announced that people would stand for the National Anthem, a lugubrious basso began singing it badly, and I had the impetus I needed to push me to the keyboard.

A few weeks ago, the notorious Fasco-American provocateuse Tomi Lahren attempted to mock US Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez by tweeting that she -- that is, Lahren -- was going to dress as Ocasio-Cortez for Halloween.
Sensibly, Ocasio-Cortez wasn't offended by Lahren's costume.  She drew attention to Lahren's attempted slur, "former bartender."  Lahren backed down while pretending not to back down:
Responding to critics, a seemingly unphased Lahren refused to back down, tweeting: "I mean this truly and sincerely, being a former bartender is the best and most admirable thing about @AOC."
She lied, of course.  Like most Republicans, she believes that having been a service worker somehow discredits Ocasio-Cortez. But then, so do right-wing Democrats. Numerous AOC fans and supporters pointed out that though elites pretend to care about working people, putting us in our place is one of their go-tos.  They'll usually back down, as Lahren did, when they get called on it, but if they didn't believe it, their ids wouldn't spew out the contemptuous dismissals in the first place.  What it amounts to is that while they value proles in our place, we had better not get too big for our britches by, say, getting elected to Congress.

I've often come up against versions of this pattern myself, from my liberal law-professor friend who refused to recognize that mocking college dropouts was not only invalid, it included me.  "It didn't refer to you," she protested, "You're not a newscaster."  But I am a college dropout, so it did refer to me.

I came up against this same mindset several times earlier, on a university-owned BBS in the 1990s, which was open to university staff, students, and faculty.  Someone would dismiss my opinions by pointing out that I was a dishwasher, what did I know?  Usually some of my friends would defend me as being real smart anyway, and the offender would backtrack and protest that he (it was always a he) totally respected me and would be proud to have me teach his children.  This was still irrelevant, and I don't think I ever got an answer to my follow-up question, which was why, if these people respected me so much, why did they begin with a pointless ad hominem dismissal?  The important thing, I take it, was that they should never actually have to engage with a rational argument.  That's a right guaranteed by the Constitution, you know.

The worst thing about social media, as far as I'm concerned, is not the right-wing loonies, toadies, and thugs who populate it, but the liberal and left loonies, toadies, and thugs who populate it. That's a personal reaction, since both do equal harm to rational discourse, but it bothers me more because the liberals and leftists are supposed to be on my side, my allies and shields against the Trump threat, defenders of reality-based, fact-based discourse in a post-truth world. 

Take my liberal law-professor friend, who posted authoritatively on Facebook just last week that hate speech is not Constitutionally protected.  She was either ignorant or lying, and in either case I'm concerned for her students, just as I am for the students of right-wing bigots who teach in public universities.  Even in the red state where she teaches, even in law school, she may encounter people who disagree with her from the left, the kind of people liberals hate even more than they hate Donald Trump.  I don't know that she'd fail a student who corrected her factual errors, but I'm confident that she'd try to pull rank based on her education and authority as a professor. 

That doesn't work on me: she can't hurt me by giving me a low grade, and I don't even give her the benefit of the doubt anymore.  But it could intimidate her students, and that's not good.   I hope none of them have worked as bartenders, table servers, or in other low-class jobs.