Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Daddy Dearest

Because they're suckers for punishment...

Oh, there's been much talk here recently about Where The Boys Are—or rather, Where The Boys MINDS Are. Jesse gives the compendium, as Sara, Hubris and I “stabbed at at it with our steely knives” and managed to at the very least, seriously wound the beast.

It's a funny thing how we all seemed to coalesce around this issue of men and their (our) well...insecurities. We didn't plan it out that way—it's just the way river bent and we simply sent the water from way, way upstream. But it is interesting, and maybe ironic/telling that this series of posts dealing with masculinity and how men pose and place themselves in society bracketed Jesse's post about the heinous treatment of the young lady from Howard University following her reporting of being raped.

“Effect without cause. Sub-atomic laws, scientific pause. Syn-chro-ni-city.”

Thing is, I've been a little—okay, rather pre-occupied with work stuff lately, so I couldn't comment as I would have liked on the above posts, particularly Sara's post about poseurs and people's susceptibility to them...but after I read it, it set me thinking for quite a bit. Things are not good at my nine-to-five job right now. Lots of turmoil and turnover (Why they do this stuff in October so often I'll never know...), lots of insecurity and self-serving allegiance-forging. Sara's words about the culture we live in now—consumerist, no long-term planning, with the premium on hard work going the way of the muscle-car and green, bubbly Dippity-Doo™ rung so damned true that it hurt.

At work, I'm seeing people who really should know better, in a moment of corporate crisis, lining up behind a flash-in-the-pan glad-hander and no-talent—whoops! Correction: the man does have a talent, and that talent is for appearing to have talent where in fact there is none. That talent, and an amazing propensity for positioning himself perfectly near the flame-spouts of power—near enough to be seen as close, but set just so he himself does not burn. And the fearful underlings who have survived are cagily positioning themselves under his wing for self-protection from those flames. You can hardly blame them, and yet—there is an unseemliness, and actual stupidity in chucking their common sense and pride in allying themselves with one of the guys who fucked things up so badly in the first place.

But...he does have a certain “charm” if you will—a tough guy swagger and cockiness, which plays to his “just handle it” superiors (the VPs), and the “Save me! Save me! Sa-a-a-a-aave ME!” subordinates. Both groups of people seem to be members of the masochistic, “You-may-be-a-fuckup, but-you're-a-tough-talkin'-macho-alpha-male-fuckup-and-we're-willing-to-give-you-another-chance-to-save-us-slash-screw-us-over” club.

It harkened back to Sara's post, and the larger reality in general. It was the “half-of-the-country-elected” Bush candidacies and presidencies writ large. The silent accommodation by too many of the blustery, confident idiocy of a Rumsfeld. And so on and so forth.

Why? Why as Sara asked do we (“we”, meaning too many of the people in a position to vote these clowns in) continually “honor” mediocrity of late—specifically braggadocious male mediocrity? I'm tempted to think it's part of the shucking off of the so-called “age of sensitivity” exemplified in the late eighties and early nineties by the likes of Bill Clinton and Al Gore. There was an entire media campaign against thoughtfulness and empathy in our male leadership. Almost as soon as Clinton and Gore came into office, we saw the birth of the “Iron John” movement—designed to re-“red-meat” that chunk of the male populace that chafed under the new sensitivity. The return of cigars, the celebration of caddishness towards women—the very forced throwback to “the good old days”, with serious, serious over-amplification—the elevation to role model-status of the “Swingers” man, who in the end of the film is shown to be a childish, un-ready for the real world asshole.

But my God, what a charming, and fun-loving asshole he was, eh?

Which is all that seems to matter. Clinton and Gore weren't that. They were wonks. Liberal wonks. And what flipped the right off so badly against Clinton was that in spite of his empathetic persona and wonky hyper-competence, he still dared to have that bad-boy streak in him, and for that bit of “hypocrisy” (a hypocrisy they felt acutely), he had to be punished severely. “You can't be a wonk and a cool, devil-may-care mack—we're the man's man party!”

Newt. Livingston. Hyde. You remember the exposés of their peccadilloes, post-Clinton. The anti-Clinton/sensitivity/competence backlash was well cultivated. Brilliantly seeded, and bloomed to full flower in the mid-nineties in a haze of cigar smoke (“How dare Bill Clinton appropriate our blessed, phallic cigar as a symbol of his happy indulgence? HE MUST PAY!”) and a snarl of belligerence.

Enter George W. Bush and Rudy Giuliani—the poster children for the “Fuck you, I'm the man!” school of testosterone-fueled politics. Bush was the hard-drinking former frat-boy you could have a beer with—if he could drink, that is. Sporting a hinky, Texas faux-swagger, a drawl of convenience, and a patently anti-social attitude towards people society and he deemed not worth a damn—like death-row inmates, he rode the anti-competency/wonk wave in—via the talking point-burial of Al Gore under the wet blankets of perceived over-thoughfulness and concern over detail and the minutiae of governance, Bush rode into (okay, was driven in—he hates horses) the presidency. His ascent was aided by media folk who wanted another tasty bite at the superficial, Reaganesque apple of charismatic, fist-in-your-face (as opposed to brainy) leadership with a rough hand at the actual tiller of power. Too many pundits and opinion makers served us from that poisoned well—on Bush's way up, and then after his placement. One of the most egregious water-carriers for him was NBC's braying, pan-faced Chris Matthews. Here you have an opinion-pusher whose addiction is to the very idea of political power and its application. And he truly showed his colors in the immediate aftermath of the fall of Baghdad and the end of “major combat operations” as announced on the deck of the U.S.S Lincoln in May of '03, with these gleeful chin-bumps into presidential nads:

“What do you make of the actual visual that people will see on TV and probably, as you know, as well as I, will remember a lot longer than words spoken tonight? And that's the president looking very much like a jet, you know, a high-flying jet star. A guy who is a jet pilot. Has been in the past when he was younger, obviously. What does that image mean to the American people, a guy who can actually get into a supersonic plane and actually fly in an unpressurized cabin like an actual jet pilot?”


“He won the war. He was an effective commander. Everybody recognizes that, I believe, except a few critics. Do you think he is defining the office of the presidency, at least for this time, as basically that of commander in chief? ”


“Here's a president who's really nonverbal. He's like Eisenhower. He looks great in a military uniform. He looks great in that cowboy costume he wears when he goes West. I remember him standing at that fence with Colin Powell. Was [that] the best picture in the 2000 campaign?”


“The president there -- look at this guy! We're watching him. He looks like he flew the plane. He only flew it as a passenger, but he's flown —He looks for real. What is it about the commander in chief role, the hat that he does wear, that makes him -- I mean, he seems like -- he didn't fight in a war, but he looks like he does.”

Now since those er...I think “heady” may be too loaded a word (Shit! So's “loaded”, now that I've typed it!) days, Matthews has had to embarrassingly admit to the folly of his creepy brand of man-love towards the idiot-in-chief. It pains him—obviously. But he does it, in between searching for those occasional moments when he can justify the original, discredited lust. And make no mistake—the bed-shit that is the Bush presidency is undeniable—even to a power-as-aphrodisiac-addicted tool like Matthews.

So, you would think that maybe he and his ilk would take a lesson from that ill-advised, and flat-out deadly to the families of nearly 3900 soldiers families, choice, right?

Cue Chappelle Show's Charlie Murphy on Rick James' no longer fucking up: “Wrong! Wrong!”

Many wingnut pundits have gone to circus contortionist lengths to hypocritically pump up Giuliani in the face of their previous stated views that would disqualify him for their support. But Matthews in particular has gone way beyond the pale of his peers. In spite of the diarrhea-blast of a presidency of the man he so brainlessly auded on May 1st 2003, he is actively and directly championing a guy HE KNOWS WOULD ACTUALLY BE WORSE—Giuliani, every damned day on his shows, be they Hardball or his little weekend bit of throw-up in the mouth, The Chris Matthews Show. On both of these shows, he goes well out of his way to pimp for the belligerent, egomaniacal, war-mongering Rudy who made his bones chucking discourse and reason in favor of billies and bulets in his times as New York's Mayor. If there's bad news for Rudy, Matthews'll either ignore it or spin it along the lines of “But hey, this other guy's troubles are worse!”. If there's a story that doesn't involve Rudy, he'll find a way to twist it to where it can be seen as a boon to Giuliani. And if someone on his show goes after Giuliani or points out a potential fatal flaw, he basically comes out directly as a shill for the “man”, touting him as the everyfella's choice, and how right he (Matthews) is gonna be when Rudy kicks everybody else's asses.

Giuliani can do no wrong in this marble-mouthed, dim-wittted blonde's eyes...ever. Witness these examples of naked Rudy shilling on Hardball in recent weeks:

MATTHEWS: I am saying conventional wisdom that you're speaking now is wrong. The issue in the country today is security. Who's going to protect this country against the bad guys? Everybody agrees that's the number one concern in the country today, and everyone agrees that Rudy has street cred on that issue. He can protect us. That's the image he conveys. Certainly we can argue about those other issues, and in other times they might be the paramount issues, but in -- in what passes for wartime right now in the minds of many Americans, it's time to pick a commander in chief. That's the premier hat he has to put on. Not health care expert. Not economic czar. Not moral czar. Commander in chief. That's the hat I think he fits the best, and it's the one we're looking to fill. Look at [Sen.] Hillary [Rodham Clinton (D-NY)]. She's trying her darnedest to look like a commander in chief, to look like the armed services expert, to be a bit of a [former British Prime Minister] Margaret Thatcher. She would love to have the street cred that Rudy Giuliani brings to this election. Just think about it. He has what the others want. And so I'm not -- I know how easy it is to parrot the conventional wisdom. I hear it all the time on television. Tell that to the voters who keep saying he's their favorite candidate. So, I think he's one of the three or four people who has a real good shot at being the next president, and I think he's going to get out there and fight for it. He's going to have to go to those conservative parts of the country and fight for it, but let me tell you where he is popular. The suburbs of Philadelphia, the suburbs of New York City, the suburbs of Chicago.


“He is a front-runner because the voters like this guy because during 9-11, he was the one guy there on the street corner, answering questions, not hiding like all the other pols did.”


MATTHEWS: Who would win a street fight? Rudy Giuliani -- just think of a street fight now over in Queens somewhere. It's a dark night, it's about 2 in the morning. Two guys are out behind the building, right? On a vacant lot. Rudy Giuliani or President Ahmadinejad, who would win that fight?


MATTHEWS: -- but picks the person that makes us feel the safest. And I know this guy is not perfect. I've not had a good relationship with him like lot of people. He's tough. I think the next president of the United States will be Rudy Giuliani...

...Because I think that they want -- we want a guy who'll be tougher than the president we have now, quicker to tell us what's going on. He won't have a ranch. I know. I am tired of presidents with ranches. I want a guy that's working in town, you know. He's nearby. He tells us what's going on. It ain't three days later, they show him a movie of what's been happening. I just want a president who's there. Is that asking too much?

And this classic gem of shill-speak for his bald-pated butt-buddy...

MATTHEWS: Breaking news right now. According to a group that monitors radical Islamic websites, a new video message from Osama bin Laden is expected to be released in the next 72 hours to address the sixth anniversary of the September 11th attacks on us. It will be the first time bin Laden has been seen, at least on videotapes, in three years.

Let me go -- what is the significance of that? Does that sort of -- I hate -- it's more important, I guess, politically, since it's just a message. It's not an attack. Does it have a help to Rudy there? Does it help the Republicans generally?

Now...why do I point this out in terms of the discussions we've been having about “masculinity” per se?

Welllll....this is going to ruffle some feathers here, but hey—I figure, out with it, right?

There is a term that right-wingers, particularly right-wing men like to toss around about the Left, and Dems in general, referring to us as “The Nanny Party”—a pejorative intended to feminize the idea of caring and empathy, using “nyah-nyah” sexism and chauvinism to denigrate those humanistic traits. Allow me then, to counter that with an analysis about our obviously machismo hung-up buddies on the right. The odd lust for a brusque, iron-handed, emotionally remote and psychologically and sometimes physically abusive “father” figure on their part is undeniable. The projection of infallibility of those figures is well-documented, particularly in the case of the knee-jerk defense of the most heinous actors on that red-lit stage—namely the sexually abusive Catholic priests involved in the vile church sex-abuse scandals. The Catholic League's odious William Donohue has been known to spin that evil on its ear by asking questions of victims like, “Why didn't you just smack the clergyman in the face? After all, most 15-year-old teenage boys wouldn't allow themselves to be molested. So why did you?”

This fealty to the rough daddy figure manifests itself again and again in the above-shown and easily Googled additional shilling for Rudy by Matthews, via his constantly going on and on about Rudy's appeal to those who share in his and Giuliani's hyper-paternalistic religious beliefs—those “northeastern ethnic suburb-dwellers” he keeps citing as key to the Rudester's taking a couple of big states electorally. Note the references to manly-man, tough guy stuff like “Who'd win in a street fight?” The almighty, two-fisted “Father Infallible.” We saw it in Giuliani's vile defense of his post-death abuse of police-murder victim Patrick Dorismond, where he fell back on those old, “Big-Man-o-centric”, good vs. evil tropes when he said of the dead Dorismond that “he was no altar boy”. It doesn't take a Freud to note the quasi-religious fervor these nitwits have for the brute-as-father/leader trope. Matthews however, is a brilliant example of the right's addiction to these in the end, empty size-48 suits full of angry hot air. He and many of his co-horts in their eternal idiocy go right back for more “punishment”, even after “moving away from home” and leaving Papa Bush behind, only to shack up with another blustering, over-compensating, mean daddy in their backing of Rudy.

It goes again to that feminization of “feeling” again. Bill Clinton was mercilessly ridiculed for saying “I feel your pain”—evidencing empathy and care. And that was so anathema to the activist right that rose up against him that they opted for the evil, root opposite of Clinton's phrase.

Not “I don't feel your pain”, but rather, “I shall cause the pain you feel.”

It's why the hatred for Clinton and Gore is so virulent and never far from the surface for them. Thought has never been a selling point for wingnuts. Anti-intellectualism is the coin of their realm. Bush's down-home stupid, and Rudy's thoughtless yammering on this and that plays better for them than thoughfulness. It's a undigestible mouthful they cannot process while maintaining their narrow world-view—so it must be ridiculed, alá the recent rancor over Gore's Nobel. A Clinton or a Gore or anyone like them can look down their nose at the right's intellectual lightweights—which offends said right to no end. So as a defense mechanism against that, the right impulsively gravitates to the unthinking, all-powerful boss/daddy figure as its champion. Clinton would never kick their asses—he'd smile, pat em' the back and then like Otter in Animal House, just devilishly con 'em right out of their homecoming queen girlfriends. It's pretty damned childish, but their angle seems to be opposition to anyone smart who challenges them to think and grow, and an attraction to the strongman who'll kick the living shit out of everything in sight—including them—as that means that they're at the very least...actually being noticed.

How ultimately pathetic.

Take the worst “daddy” examples known to us generally—a Papa Joe Jackson, a Bing Crosby, A Murry Wilson (Brian, Carl & Dennis dad from The Beach Boys), the fictional “Great Santini” Bull Meechum—roll 'em all together, and you get the prototypical GOP daddy/leader that too many of these power-addicted fools lust for attention/abuse from. Even Fred Thompson's folksy “I don't really give a fuck about you” mien falls into this sick and contrived “Papa Bear” rubric.

This siding with “the brute” is a pathological sickness. It reminded me of how many on the right defended Rush Limbaugh's craven mockery of Michael J. Fox last year. He was the abrasive, scornful bully to Fox's empathetic, all-too-imperfect person appealing to empathy.

And then it hit me. It was Biff Tannen and Marty McFly all over again. The gruff, spoiled, loudmouth bully versus the humanist, noticeably imperfect “little guy”. Guess who those two archetypes represent? And remember how Biff always rolled with an ineffectual group of sycophants who hung with him-ostensibly just to be close to blunt force “power”.

Why...hello to you too, Chris Matthews...and the rest of the wingnut pundit class.

So they side with the bully. The thug. The Authoritarian. Because it's the cheap, quick route to power. These boys hearts belong to “daddy”—especially if he's a mean son-of-a-bitch. Gotta love him. Gotta love him! And maybe he'll love meeeeeeeeee! The “Iron John” cry for unrequited daddy-love. Fuck if he doesn't think or problem solve. “Daddy's” specialty is good 'ol, red-blooded “percussive therapy”—even if it means he goes upside their heads from time to time.

Matthews and his abuse-addicted ilk are little more than Biff's faceless gang. Punk-ass propper-uppers. The F.O.B.s


And the end, after all the bastardry...Biff and his buddies found themselves smack at the business end...

...of karma's ever-lovin' dumptruck.

Smells like...uh...victory. Or something.