Violent imagery at CPAC
I’ve been watching this CPAC stuff while my emotions swing between amusement and horror. Rachel Maddow’s coverage was awesome. I was laughing my ass off when she interviewed the Birchers about fluoride in the drinking water—they’re still trotting out the implication that the intent is mass sterilization—and I thought that they’d be wise to learn something from their fellow paranoids in the anti-choice movement. If they started talking about how fluoride in the drinking water was encouraging irresponsibility, and how consequences like cavities are necessary to teach people not to eat sugar, they’d probably find a lot more folks in the mainstream conservative movement willing to push their ideas.
David Neiwert pointed out that the metaphor makes no sense, and if you’re thinking about it from a language standpoint, it doesn’t. But I have to point out this: Rachel Maddow found at least one publication that had cartoons equating Tiger Woods with Barack Obama for no other apparent reason than the fact that they’re both biracial. So perhaps a little of that was fueling this. With this crowd, I wouldn’t doubt it one bit. They do have their obsessions.
What is obvious and undeniable (not that this will prevent the wingnuts from trying) is that this is fucked up on two levels. The gleeful celebration of domestic violence is what really bothered me right up front. Domestic violence isn’t okay if you think the assailant has just cause. The audience that ate this up scares me especially on this front, because knowing people like this my whole life, I can tell you straight up that they were really excited by the mental image of blonde Elin Nordegren running him down. The gleeful reception the audience gave to the reference reinforces this suspicion of mine. (I’m not accusing her of anything, for what it’s worth. I have no idea what happened. But they’re responding to the rumors.) And I’m sure everyone enjoying this would justify it by saying that they’re not for wife-beating, and it’s funny because it was a woman doing this to a man blah blah blah, but I don’t buy that. Once you accept the premise that it’s okay in some circumstances, then you start expanding, and looking with a forgiving eye to men who beat their wives for perceived bitchiness. If women are allowed to assault men for violating marital vows, then what men can do to women for falling down on wifely duties is expansive. In both cases, not acceptable.
But of course, what’s really concerning is the overt celebration of violence in service of undermining democracy. Oh blah blah, it was just a metaphor, but the grown-ups know that’s just a bit of ass-covering. “Big government” is a meaningless term in any literal sense; it simply means government when duly elected Democrats are in power. And even if Pawlenty gets away with claiming that it’s just a metaphor, his meaning—the overall meaning of CPAC this year—couldn’t be clearer. They’re encouraging their followers to literally believe the only legitimate party is the Republican party, and that this is true even if Democrats win fair and square. How conservatives rationalize this is all over the map. “Jokes” about repealing women’s suffrage are part of this narrative, since women, especially Unwomen (aka, the unmarried) can’t make the “correct” choices. At the big teabaggers’ convention, Tom Tancredo floated the idea of literacy tests, which along with the Palin speak about Real Americans® establishes a racist narrative where non-white voters are considered illegitimate. Questioning the patriotism of the “liberal elite” rounds off the trifecta of rationalizations.
Teabaggers are already convinced that the system itself is broken, due to all these supposedly illegitimate voters having the franchise, and they’re talking revolution. That’s the atmosphere that Pawlenty dropped this violent imagery into. This is where Pawlenty suggested violence as a way to reassert the proper order. This is where Pawlenty celebrated violence that has connotations that especially please this audience.