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“What’s happened to you? Have you been kissing ass so long, you’re starting to like it?”

[ 118 ] November 30, 2011 |

The story of Emma Sullivan is, in its small way, inspiring. She stood her ground, Kansas’s WATB-in-chief backed off, and her school administrators seemed to figure out in time that demanding an apology would violate the First Amendment. Sometimes standing up for yourself is not just the right thing to do but actually works.

Not surprisingly, however, someone with a sinecure at Fred Hiatt’s crayon scribble page sees it differently. Via Greenwald, I bring you Ruth Marcus from the David Broder Memorial Fainting Couch, with a column about the “potty-mouthed”* Sulllivan:

Emma Sullivan, you’re lucky you’re not my daughter. (Dangerous sentence, I know: My daughters might agree.)

If you were my daughter, you’d be writing that letter apologizing to Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback for the smart­alecky, potty-mouthed tweet you wrote after meeting with him on a school field trip.

Also, that smartphone? The one you posed with, proudly displaying the tweet in which you announced that Brownback “sucked” and added the lovely hashtag #heblowsalot? Turned off until you learn to use it responsibly.

[...]

More to the point, as I constantly remind my daughters, parents are not bound by constitutional constraints. The Constitution does not grant teenagers the fundamental right to have a cellphone or use foul language on it. The parental role is to inculcate values of respect for authority — even those you disagree with — and the importance of civil discourse. It’s not to stand up for your little darling no matter how much she mouths off.

It seems worth noting at this point that Sullivan is 18 years old.  And, yet, I actually believe that Marcus would suspend her cellphone privileges for not properly respecting the auhtoritah of a man who, if he had his way, would use state coercion to force Sullivan to carry her rapist’s baby to term. The idea that the relationship between citizen and governor is analogous to the relationship between child and parent is even more baffling, leaving aside the fact that Marcus apparently sees no difference between adults and elementary schoolers. And as Glenn says, it’s not surprising that Marcus’s belief that we should bow down to our “betters” extends to more important issues.

*Seriously, “potty-mouthed.” Verbatim quote from the headline, I swear, and I believe the first time this phrase has been used since my grandfather passed away in 1983.  Are adults even the intended audience of the WaPo op-ed page anymore?

..this was made for Pierce, and he delivers.  I especially commend his analysis of Marcus’s passive-aggressive mealy-mouthed “maybe she has First Amendment rights but” argument.

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  1. witless chum says:

    Fuck off, Ruth.

  2. Aaron says:

    The parental role is to inculcate values of respect for authority…

    Fail.

    • Mike says:

      Yeah, where the hell did she get the idea that that’s the point of parenting? High-fives to Sullivan’s mother, who appears to actually have some clue about how to raise a child to become a responsible adult:

      “I raised my kids to be independent, to be strong, to be free thinkers. If she wants to tweet her opinion about Governor Brownback, I say for her to go for it and I stand totally behind her.”

      • Actually, I tend to believe that the views expressed by Sullivan’s mother are not incompatible with Marcus’s (bone-headedly expressed, I’ll admit) point. There is expressing opinion, and then there is rudeness, and the Venn diagram which charts them are not entirely overlapping. Brownback’s people were way out of line making an issue out of a private Tweet, Sullivan’s principal was mostly (but not, perhaps, entirely) out of line in thinking that he had a responsibility to making certain Sullivan’s private jokes didn’t have any poor public repercussions on the high school, but Sullivan’s parents (she may be eighteen, but she’s still in high school and living at home) wouldn’t have been out of line to instruct their daughter that her cell phone privileges (does she pay for them herself?) are contingent on her making an apology. I quite possibly would have done that, depending on the context, and I happen to think Brownback is idiotically continuing to run this state into the ground. But fuck it; I guess I’m just another petty authoritarian. (I also, on occasion, describe people as “potty-mouths,” so I’m doubly a helpless case. Also a hypocrite, I know.)

        • Mike says:

          What, exactly, should she be apologizing for?

        • delurking says:

          Surely your instructions to your daughter (or son, for that matter) would be contingent upon why she had made the comment? Would you want her to apologize if she had made the comment for a good reason — if she felt, upon serious political reflection, that Brownback did suck?

          One person’s rudeness is another person’s free expression, is my point here. And which is worse: the foul word suck, or Brownbeck et al’s attempt to control your daughter’s body, along with the body of every other woman in this country?

          I know which I find more rude.

          • Njorl says:

            Rude words are valued for their succinctness. I don’t think you could fit a non-rude summation of the problems of Sam Brownback into a tweet, or two, or five.

          • Bob says:

            Defending the use of the pejorative “suck” on a progressive blog. That’s priceless. Had she called him a faggot would you be so quick to defend her? If no, why not? Saying a man “sucks” as in insult may just have some tiny connection to gay sex. Unless the insult had something to do with how he consumes beverages.

            • Malaclypse says:

              Concern troll is very concerned.

              • Bob says:

                Wow! You sure put me in my place.

                • Malaclypse says:

                  Not really. You’ll keep pretending to not understand words, and pretending to be concerned about the non-existent homophobia. You’ll even think that you are being insightful and provocative. People will point and laugh, yet you will walk away believing that you got the better of the exchange, because you are really, really bad at social interaction, and just can’t pick up on these things.

                • dangermouse says:

                  Not really. You’ll keep pretending to not understand words, and pretending to be concerned about the non-existent homophobia. You’ll even think that you are being insightful and provocative. People will point and laugh, yet you will walk away believing that you got the better of the exchange, because you are really, really bad at social interaction, and just can’t pick up on these things.

                  If you don’t mind I’m just gonna save this to my desktop and use it as boilerplate for this sort of thing from now on.

                • Malaclypse says:

                  If you don’t mind I’m just gonna save this to my desktop and use it as boilerplate for this sort of thing from now on.

                  Honored, thank you.

              • Bob says:

                I raised two sons. When they were 8 years old and said something bad was “gay” or it “sucked” or “blew” I corrected them. By the time they were 18 they had ceased using such slurs to describe things they disliked. I realize I don’t understand words with anything approaching your depth of knowledge, but believe it or not it is possible to express disapproval without resorting to such.

            • Bob says:

              Of course I forgot she also worked “he blows” into her tweet. That’s a homophobic twofer!
              And before anyone responds, no, I am not defending Marcus’ inane column. I am pointing out some of you are celebrating two homophobic slurs in one tweet a tad too much.

              • Left_Wing_Fox says:

                I agre.

                Therefore it should be expanded to “blows kids” and thus remove the slur from the sexist, and put it back into the realm of child molesters and bestiality aficionados, as opposed to straight women and homosexuals.

                Fair enough?

              • Anonymous says:

                I am pointing out some of you are celebrating two homophobic slurs in one tweet a tad too much.

                Speaking as a man who both sucks and blows in the sense in question: Go away, Bob.

              • Njorl says:

                Interestingly, “having a stick up your ass” doesn’t have any homophobic connotations. I wonder what made me think of that.

              • L2P says:

                What about “blows goats?” We’re cool there, right?

                I’m a dad and all, and I understand about wanting to balance concerns about proper conduct and free expression. But let’s get real. What Sullivan tweeted is only in the realm of improper conversation for 12 year olds. She’s 18; IMO, as a parent, she’s fine.

              • (the other) Davis says:

                Because clearly the acts of “sucking” and “blowing” are performed exclusively by homosexuals.

                • DrDick says:

                  Are you accusing Bob of being gay? Because he clearly sucks (and not at all in a pleasantly sexual manner).

                • Bob says:

                  One last try. Had she called him a “faggot” would you all be cool with that? If not, why not? Saying he “sucks” (a shortened version of “he sucks dick”) and he “blows” (a shortened version of “he gives blow jobs”) IS the same god damned thing as saying he’s a “faggot.” When directed at a man they are insults BECAUSE they reference homosexual acts. [I typed this before checking the latest replies and got to the sentence ending in “faggot.” and continued only to realize at least one genius would have a grand “aha! Gotcha” moment by pointing out in a heterosexual relationship women can “suck” and “blow” thus thinking they had rendered my point moot. So I went back and added the sentence beginning “When directed at a man….” Thank you (The Other) Davis for being so fucking obtuse and making my extra expenditure of time worthwhile.]
                  I am NOT saying the young lady in question hates gays.
                  When my then 7 year old son came home from school with swastikas drawn all over his notebooks I didn’t think that meant he wanted to crank up the old gas chambers and start pushing Jews into them. I did talk to him about it and make him cover up the swastikas.
                  Being capable of simultaneously holding the views that A. certain language and symbol choices can be inappropriate and B. using said language and symbols doesn’t necessarily mean the person doing so subscribes to that viewpoint or is a bad person in any way shape or form doesn’t strike me as all that difficult to understand. Apparently I’m wrong on that.
                  As for UncleKvetch and DrDick, all I can say is you two have elevated wit to a level unseen since the death of S J Perelman. I tremble in the wake of your verbal assaults.

                • Malaclypse says:

                  Saying he “sucks” (a shortened version of “he sucks dick”) and he “blows” (a shortened version of “he gives blow jobs”) IS the same god damned thing as saying he’s a “faggot.”

                  Still pretending that you don’t understand what words mean? Doesn’t pretending to be this stupid embarrass you?

                • Holden Pattern says:

                  Sadly for Bob’s point, all of the gay men I know use “sucks” and “blows” in nonsexual ways in ordinary conversation, in pretty much the exact same way that Ms. Sullivan used it.

                  Language is contextual, and unless you’re pretty specific about exactly what is being sucked or blown (and ALWAYS when there is no object in the sentence), those are nonsexual verbs (as is “bites”).

                • Uncle Kvetch says:

                  Sadly for Bob’s point, all of the gay men I know use “sucks” and “blows” in nonsexual ways in ordinary conversation, in pretty much the exact same way that Ms. Sullivan used it.

                  Yep.

                  Language is contextual, and unless you’re pretty specific about exactly what is being sucked or blown (and ALWAYS when there is no object in the sentence), those are nonsexual verbs (as is “bites”).

                  Yep again. If she’d called him a cocksucker, that would be a whole ‘nother situation. But she didn’t, so it isn’t.

        • herr doktor bimler says:

          Vis-a-vis Brownback putative responsibility to making certain Sullivan’s private jokes didn’t have any poor public repercussions on the high school

          IfI understand correctly, the link between Sullivan’s tweet and her high school was drawn by the governor’s staff, so anyone concerned about “poor public repercussions” should be blaming him.

  3. vacuumslayer says:

    Ruth becomes an even bigger useless pile of shit.

    Sorry for the potty-mouth.

  4. John Protevi says:

    Thanks for this, Scott. The authoritarianism angle is the worst part I think. Pointing out that citizen : governor :: child : parent is a bad analogy is the key here.

  5. Malaclypse says:

    Emma Sullivan, you’re lucky you’re not my daughter.

    I think we are all lucky that Emma Sullivan is not her daughter, because I doubt that any child with the misfortune of being raised my a petty authoritarian like Ruth Marcus would be as completely full of win as Emma Sullivan clearly is.

    • DrDick says:

      Indeed. My sympathies go out to her actual children.

      • Incontinentia Buttocks says:

        Though one of the mistakes that authoritarian parents make is that they assume that they can produce children who are just like them. Though I think Sullivan is lucky that she doesn’t have to put up with Marcus’s crap, those children unlucky to have to do so may nevertheless turn out fine.

  6. Lee Hartmann says:

    Besides, she was correct.

  7. Mudge says:

    The LGM crew is always on top of these issues in clever ways, and Greenwald provides his sober analytical outrage, but my sincere hope is that Charlie Pierce sinks his teeth into Marcus.

  8. Uncle Kvetch says:

    Good lord. I can totally imagine that screed appearing on the op-ed page of the Cecil Whig, the birdcage-liner that my parents subscribe to in northeastern Maryland. Only it would be written by a 77-year-old guest columnist/concerned citizen with a regular monthly gig called “Get Off My Lawn.”

    But the Washington Post? Are you shitting me?

  9. mark f says:

    I used to be a liberal Democrat, but ever since some high school kid in Kansas mooned gave a wet willie to flipped off tweeted something mildly impolite abou Sam Brownback I’ve become 100% pro-life.

  10. howard says:

    I recommend emailing ruth marcus directly: flood her inbox.

  11. DrDick says:

    Turned off until you learn to use it responsibly.

    The same should be said (and done) for her column in the WaPoo.

  12. Epicurus says:

    The Stranger: There’s just one thing, Dude; do you have to use so many cuss words?

    The Dude: What the fuck are you talking about?

    Please, Ms. Marcus, for the good of the world, just put down the keyboard and go live in whatever Victorian paradise you obviously wish to inhabit. The Washington Post was once a great newspaper…those days are long, long gone.

  13. c u n d gulag says:

    To paraphrase Winston Churchill:

    Ruth Marcus – “If you were my daughter, I’d poison you.”

    Daughter – “If you were my mother, I’d drink it!”

  14. Western Dave says:

    You know, there are lots of people who find “sucks” (or “sux”) and blows to be more offensive than fuck. I am not one of them, but many of colleagues are. And while such terms may have lost their connection to oral sex, they are rooted in the phrase “sucks dick” and “blows dick”. So, if Emma Sullivan should be apologizing to anybody, it’s to gay men and straight women (and anybody else – gender/sexuality rebels knock yourselves out) who perform those acts because, man, I don’t want Brownback compared to any of that stuff that I like.

    • Njorl says:

      “Suck” came into existance without the oral sex reference. One root of the word “sucker” referred to someone still breastfeeding. A sucker was someone naive, inexperienced and easily duped or defeated. To “suck” at something was to do it like a total beginner. “You suck!”, was an insult aimed at a person’s skill, rather than their character. That was by far the more common usage when I was a kid.

    • wengler says:

      But Brownback can always blow goats.

    • Stag Party Palin says:

      Growing up in Canada in the 50s (a bit like growing up in the States in the 30s, but without the Depression) I heard “blow” and “suck” as *exclusively* sexual. As a result I find it hard to use those words myself. However, general usage has changed and I had no trouble reading the tweet as a non-sexual insult.

      I *love* the photo.

      Maud:
      Professor, her kind of woman doesn’t belong on any committee. Of course, I shouldn’t tell you this but she advocates dirty books.

      Harold:
      Dirty books?!

      Alma:
      Chaucer

      Ethel:
      Rabelais

      Eulalie:
      Balzac!

      Balzac! Get it?

  15. actor212 says:

    And yet, I’d bet she’d be first on the frontlines of the war on PeeCee expression…

  16. Snarki, child of Loki says:

    Oh, Emma should have guoted that PARAGON of right-thinking morality and BASTion of democracy, and tweeted to Brownback:

    Go fuck yourself

    She’s 18. She can VOTE. She’s seriously cute. This was a complete losing battle for Brownback.

  17. TT says:

    Sullivan’s lucky she didn’t Tweet about the stupidity of privatizing Social Security, else Marcus probably would have demanded she be sent to Gitmo.

  18. Njorl says:

    After reading the column in question, I conclude that the Post has the worst website of any organization which disseminates information as its livelihood.

  19. I think our elected officials, and knob-gobbling supplicants like Marcus as well as the media at large, should be insulted on a daily basis by teenage girls. Both in person and on the internozzles.

    They really have become too imperious.

  20. wengler says:

    Ruth Marcus #sheblowsalotofgoats

  21. dangermouse says:

    Lots of people suddenly discover themselves incapable of tolerating the words “suck” and “blow” when they need an excuse to be flaming assholes to young people.

    • Western Dave says:

      Well my mom is exceedingly intolerant of sucks and blows and is never a flaming asshole to young people although a) she turns 80 in a month b) the young people in question tend to be her grandchildren (age range 3 – 28), and c) with the exception of oral sex references she curses like a sailor – a habit she picked up either from negotiating affordable housing land deals with the Pentagon during the base closings of the 90s or perhaps during her stint as a student in CUNY Queens law school in the late 80s (class of ’89).

      OTOH our school librarian is also very intolerant of sucks and blows and she’s only in her 40s. (insert jokes about librarians here).

  22. herr doktor bimler says:

    The parental role is to inculcate values of respect for authority — even those you disagree with

    I am puzzled why a newspaper would pay a columnist simply to say so little about contemporary events while revealing so much about her own personality. Is anyone drawn to buy an issue simply to learn that someone they’d never heard of is a jackboot polisher?

  23. sleepyirv says:

    “Sucks” and “blows” are so offensive, they both appear in The Simpsons coming out of the mouth of a 10-year-old.

    I think my mother gave up trying to censor my language when I was 14, though she still refused to curse in front of me.

  24. NBarnes says:

    “Sir, it’s Mega Maid! She’s gone from suck to blow!”

  25. Kevin says:

    Three words, Ruth:

    Fuck. The. Draft.

  26. cpinva says:

    ruth marcus is, and always has been, nothing but a second-tier maureen dowd, with all that that implies. the surprise would have been if she hadn’t written that column.

    with regards to “rudeness”, how else could ms. sullivan expressed the opinion that gov. brownback sucks, except by saying that he, well, sucks? an opinion shared by lots of other, older people.

    thank god ms. marcus had her fainting couch available, otherwise the poor dear would have ended up in the ER.

  27. etv13 says:

    “rapist’s baby” — if it’s a baby, it doesn’t matter if daddy is an ax-murdering serial killer — it has a right to live.

    I don’t happen to think a zygote is a baby, but think about the language you’re using here. Do you seriously want to propose that babies can be killed based on the status of their fathers, or mothers?

  28. AgentS says:

    My only issue with the girl is that she didn’t use ENOUGH insults on the Senator. When I was her age, I would use chain swears for even the slightest offense.
    She should be punished for not using insults in a creative fashion.

    This is Senator corn-hole we’re talking about here- you can’t feel bad about insulting him.

  29. Aaron says:

    The high school in question, Shawnee Mission East, is if memory serves the same one that gave us Thomas Frank, best known for his inadvertent elegy to the country club Republicans who used to run Kansas. Apparently SME, the public high school for the richest towns in the richest county in KS, learned its lesson with him and now clamps down on independent thought and expression much earlier…

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