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Michelle Malkin loves a “Weatherman with a tan,” “has a herpe” (or How Twitchy “works”)

[ 53 ] April 19, 2013 |

I’m beginning to understand why Michelle Malkin and “The Twitchy Staff” publish everything under the byline “The Twitchy Staff.” If I blamed a missing person for the Boston bombing on account of him being mentioned on a police scanner while wearing a Che t-shirt, I wouldn’t want my name directly associated with it either. Or with stories like “We’re pretty sure Dzohokhar Tsarnaev is not Tweeting,” which carry all the authority of a poorly sourced rumor just in case it really happens to be him so that Malkin can engage in some blog-triumphalism if the improbable turns out to be true. Would Malkin do this under her own name? Of course not. As proof I offer as evidence that she hasn’t. It looks like she has, but a quick read of that post shifts all potential blame where she wants it: on the “Twitchy Team.” Who’s responsible for this irresponsible speculation? One of these people. Which one?

Wouldn’t you like to know.

But you never will, because the site’s designed to facilitate irresponsibility. Despite all Malkin’s proud declarations about the importance of citizen journalists, in the end she’d rather hide, like the coward she is, beyond an anonymous byline because she knows “mistakes were and will be made.” How does she know? Because that’s the point of the entire site. She’s free to publish anything she’d like without having to worry about annoying things like “consequences,” because not only is she not directly responsible for what she’s published, she’s merely aggregating what other people have written on Twitter. It’s a perpetual bullshit machine powered by anonymity. She can take credit for its “findings” when some infernal occlusion causes it to belch out something accurate, but for the most part she denies via “UPDATE” the endless stream of bullshit it was designed to produce.

This is a more sophisticated version of the long-standing tradition among conservative bloggers of denying-without-denouncing the sexism and racism and homophobia and xenophobia of their readers. The bloggers are merely exercising their right to speak freely about their conservative values and extending their readers the same opportunity. When those readers inevitably reveal themselves to be within earshot of the whistle, these same bloggers claim to have no idea where all these dogs came from. The problem with this approach is that eventually the stench of urine sticks to bloggers who quietly encourage their readers to lift their leg on the America dream. So Malkin created a forum where figuring out where that smell’s coming from is as difficult as distinguishing one yellow stain from another — we certainly can’t blame her for the mess or the miasma.

But I think we can. I think we should force Malkin to take responsibility for the state of her house. She wants to shift the blame to her roommates or their friends but her name is on the deed. Anything they do or say is ultimately attributable to her. (Hence the title of this post.) I normally wouldn’t make such an insistence, but since her site is designed to allow her an unconscionable deniability, I’m not sure what choice we have.

Jew just say what I think you said?

[ 88 ] April 18, 2013 |

Jew know that’s considered offensive to those people? It’d be good for them if you made a sincere apology:

But we shouldn’t criticize him, because he “has brought and will continue to bring integrity and common sense to the House of Representatives,” and this is basically what passes for “integrity” and “common sense” in Oklahoma. No? It isn’t?

Maybe the people of Oklahoma should ask their representatives to wipe those snide “you’re not supposed to say that aloud” looks off their faces. I’m not actually offended by this sort of casual racism — I grew up Jewish in the South after all — nor am I even surprised by it. The father of one of my best friends nicknamed me “Good One,” not because he thought I was one of the good ones, but because he thought I was the good one.

What offends me isn’t the casual racism, then, but the smile that accompanies the apology. Because Dennis Johnson is a man who knows his audience and is absolutely certain he’s delivering a punchline.

LG&M podcast: Game of Thrones sends SEK and Steven Attewell on a “Walk of Punishment”

[ 27 ] April 17, 2013 |

I apologize for not posting this sooner, but unfortunately my voice deserted me Monday and Tuesday and, as I make clear in the podcast itself, I’m an asshole. We discuss, among other things: set pieces and jump shots; the threat of rape; great moments in horse cinema; hands; musical chairs; and silence. I think that just about does nothing resembling to justice to what we discussed. Also, for the first time ever, some awkwardly included visuals! Enjoy!

Download Kaufman and Attewell discussing “Walk of Punishment” here.

Our discussion of the premiere (S03E01) and a link to download it can be found here.

Our discussion of “Dark Wings, Dark Words” (S03E02) and a link to download it can be found here.

All LG&M podcasts can be found and subscribed to here.

Everybody put your hands together for “B. Spencer”!

[ 120 ] April 16, 2013 |

In a move which has nothing whatsoever to do with Saturday’s post about bitter academics collecting multiple pseudonyms of various genders based on people they’ve studied, Lawyers, Guns & Money is proud to announce that “B. Spencer” will joining us on the masthead as of right now! The arrival of “B. Spencer” is also utterly unrelated to the rap travesty I subjected you to earlier in the week. “B. Spencer” is no “B-Rabbit” but an actual real person — and a noisy one at that — who is not just here to shut Greenwald up. (Were the case we’d have made her gay and named her Kenneth.) Why have we invited “B. Spencer” to join us? It’s not like she’s been here all along in the raging waters of our ever-expanding comment threads. Because I swear she hasn’t. “B. Spencer” is a real live kosher person who just happens to be a doctor and she’ll be writing here from now on.

So roll out the red carpet for her already!

To those who wonder how I’m constantly assailed by the improbable

[ 62 ] April 16, 2013 |

I make this confession: I’m an anthropologist from the future, intent on discovering feelings that have yet to be offended, except I did something wrong and it collapsed and broke my brain and feet and spleen. Some of the aftermath has been chronicled online.* But the theory, it’s still sound!

*Including but not limited to the obvious, as well as dealing with a stalker fixated on my wife, a tiny car fixated on my spine, and a liberal impersonating a racist fixated on my job. The Library came after me, then thanked me for the chase. Terrible emails were sent. Cookies arrived. I tried to file. I wanted to kill myself. Was nearly arrested. My cat died. I was covered in blood. Arrived in England. To a volcano. Returned home to a forest fire. Followed by a kidney stone. That brings us to 2010 and doesn’t include any events that could topple local governments. It doesn’t include my sordid current stalkers or Porch Wars or any of the other random things that never happen to anyone that regularly happen to me.

“Live footage of the Boston Marathon Jihad bombing!”

[ 147 ] April 15, 2013 |

“It would be irresponsible to speculate,” Pamela Geller will never say, especially not when Muslims speak. Conservatives have realized that having a choke-hold on the narrative and maintaining constant pressure is the best way to ensure that, even if the facts eventually betray them, they’ll have framed the event to their advantage. The Newton massacre, which unequivocally concerned the ready availability of unnecessarily high-powered weapons, is now a marginal debate about maybe closing gun-show loopholes and never doing anything about mental healthcare deficiencies because that would be communism.

But ask a conservative and he’ll insist that his views aren’t being represented in the mainstream media — because he’s incapable of understanding that a system in which liberals on television ineffectually call for change while “liberals” in Congress noisily twiddle their thumbs is the perfect mechanism for maintaining conservative policy. I’m using the term “conservative” in the broader sense of “conserving structures as they currently exist,” but given that the country’s been stumbling into Sharia for the better part of five years now, how does erecting such a system constitute anything other than a conservative victory? Rachel Maddow can rail against Mississippi’s successful skirting of Roe but it’s still happening and, in the early hours after this attack in Boston, it doesn’t matter who’s ultimately responsible. In the minds of many — including Geller’s readers and Fox’s viewers — even if it isn’t the Muslims, it’s the Muslims.

Because that’s what happens when people conspire to “praise” an absence no matter how often it never appears.

And on the day they consult their stopped clocks and find no fault? That’s the day the rest of us begin to never hear the end of it. The day “twice right, daily” becomes the new standard of prophecy all liberal policy suffers more than it did under W. I sincerely hope that day’s not today.

Mad Men: “Collaborators” in the Secret, Sacred Curb Dances of Suburban Love

[ 14 ] April 15, 2013 |

(Of course this is yet another one of those visual rhetoric posts. Can you not see all the pictures?)

The title of the episode, “The Collaborators,” is so obviously meant to be evocative that it almost sinks beneath its own freight. The episode’s foremost “collaboration” occurs between Don Draper and his upstairs neighbor, Sylvia Rosen, who are acting out the transparent stratagems of Updike’s titular Couples (1968). Though Updike’s novel covers the time addressed in earlier seasons, its particular combination of adultery and war is relevant here:

This pattern, of quarrel and reunion, of revulsion and surrender, was repeated three or four times that winter, while airplanes collided over Turkey, and coups transpired in Iraq and Togo[.] (161)

Simply put, there’s something about having sex while the radio describes some new front in the Tet Offensive makes The Man in the Grey Flannel Suit feel more like The Spy Who Came in from the Cold. (And we well know how accurate that novel is.) Consider the first time Don and Sylvia play “collaborators.” The scene begins with a point-of-view shot from Don’s perspective as the elevator door opens on Sylvia and her husband, Dr. Arnold Rosen, arguing over money:

Mad men00015

It’s significant that even though she’s shot in profile here, Don’s able to see her entire face. He can see more of her than she can of him; he exists only in her peripheral vision, if at all, whereas he can observe her from two angles. He’s not spying on her, but he is paying attention to their private matter. When Dr. Rosen enters the elevator, she throws Don the most meaningful glance she can in the half-second that she has:

Mad men00120

The director of this episode, some clown by the name of Jon Hamm, uses this medium close-up to great effect. Remember that close-ups are meant to suggest intimacy, whereas medium shots are designed to give some sense of body language. In terms of scale, this medium close-up provides intimate access to her face as she shoots Don a plea, while simultaneously allowing enough frame to depict the familiarity of Dr. Rosen’s body language. He’s distant from her (emotionally) but doesn’t know it (physically); she’s distant from Don (physically) but acutely feels it (emotionally); and Don’s somewhere back there on the elevator, but the camera’s not aligned with his perspective anymore so his feelings are absent from this shot. (If it were his perspective, the eyeline match wouldn’t be slightly frame-left.)

But not from the scene. This is the first example of the “collaboration” between the two, so it should come as no surprise that after Dr. Rosen enters the elevator, Don remembers he’s forgotten his cigarette:

Mad men00118

The medium shot is perfunctory, because its main purpose is to capture Don’s exaggerated gesture. The fact that the gesture’s exaggerated is important, or would be if Dr. Rosen were paying attention. (Which he seems not to be.) But Don puts on a show just in case and zips back up the elevator:

Mad men00020

To Dr. Rosen’s apartment, where Sylvia awaits. Whether she knew he was also playing this game at this point is unclear. That she wanted it to be one of the days he did goes without saying, but her attractiveness here isn’t a function of being “made up” so much as being natural. Which reminds Don of something:

Read more…

Boy, I sure would hate to be Amanda Marcotte right now!

[ 218 ] April 14, 2013 |

Because she just got burned in a totally effective manner by an actor! From a television show!

The problem with this logic extends beyond the fact that conservatives devote Russian steppes of bandwidth to discrediting the idea that actors ought to participate in the public sphere. They start highly effective Twitter-campaigns to boycott actors and employers who make overtly political statements because they believe, deep in their ideological core, that people involved in the production of televisual entertainment have nothing to add to the national conversation. We’re talking deep personal convictions here. They’d never enthusiastically embrace the statement of a character actor just because who am I kidding of course they would. They don’t hate Hollywood — they hate that the majority of it thinks their values are antediluvian. And when someone from Hollywood agrees with them?

They just can’t handle it.

Every conservative celebrity-of-the-month becomes the John-Paul-George-and-Ringo of Twitter for awhile. (Adam Baldwin’s either sitting alone crying on the abandoned set of Chuck or mercilessly pounding his Twitter trying to make Twitchy love him again.) But the thing about Twitter-campaigns and its meth-dependent scribe is that it all amounts to chatter amongst like-minded folks. Conservatives on Twitter form tiny circles of self-congratulation whose sole purpose is being sky-hooked into illusory importance by a service, Twitchy, that only exists to reinforce that delusion. No fiendish liberal could come up with a plan that mollifies conservative egos with the subtlety of Twitchy. Once they scale Malkin’s xerostomic mount they feel like they’ve made it — who cares if their throats are too parched to say anything else? It’s not like they said much of value before.

Take Nick Searcy’s declaration above. He will never be more beloved by bigots than he is right now. This is the summit for him. All that was required of him to reach it was a profoundly impotent public statement. No longer will Amanda be able to turn on her television on Tuesday nights and watch Justified because … because … because Nick Searcy said so. You’d think someone who’s portrayed as many officers of the law as Searcy has would understand the concept of enforceability, but apparently he’s more concerned with being Conservative Internet Hero Du Jour than actually saying something that might make sense. But at least he attacked Amanda in a way that might hurt her feelings!

Because I’m sure his empty threat to take away toys he doesn’t own via means he can’t control must really sting.

I just had the best idea ever!

[ 85 ] April 13, 2013 |

And now I know exactly what mistakes not to make when I pull it off!

(In all seriousness, that’s probably the most engagingly written and outright entertaining article about scholarly fraud I’ve read in recent memory.)

Ironically, she’s not doing transwomen any justice.

[ 58 ] April 12, 2013 |

I’m genuinely fond of Gail Simone’s work—both in comics and combative internet forums—and I fully support what she says about the addition of a transwoman to the cast of Batgirl:

She added that she thinks most superhero comics readers don’t have a problem with increased diversity, but rather with stories that promote sermonizing over storytelling. Alysia will be “a character, not a public service announcement … being trans is just part of her story. If someone loved her before, and doesn’t love her after, well—that’s a shame, but we can’t let that kind of thinking keep comics in the 1950s forever.”

Except it’s not “just part of her story,” because it’s just not part of the story. It’s an interruption in Barbara Gordon’s issue-wide interior monologue. Because in this issue Gordon has quite a bit of confessing to do:

You don’t even need to enlarge the image to see that the majority of this conversation is filtered through Gordon’s interior monologue—those black dialogue boxes speak for themselves. This is Gordon telling you a story about Gordon, which would be fine if this didn’t happen:

I admit to having edited out three panels of hugging and a close-up of that message-cat, but that doesn’t detract from my larger point: Alysia’s confession isn’t an organic element of the narrative. It’s utterly forced. Consider the first set off panels above: it’s a series of two-shots emphasizing the bond between Barbara and Alysia that “transitions” to an unnecessarily dramatic close-up on Alysia. Because it’s not as if Barbara’s confession of having been paralyzed and tormented and stalked lacks emotional weight. Her burden is even indicated, visually, by the purple half-bat that haunts her words. She can’t escape what’s been done to her and who she is, not even when she’s telling her own story to herself. Which, again, is all well and good. I adore the confessional mode so long as it doesn’t involve Don Draper talking about swimming. But a narrative written in the confessional mode simply isn’t the best place to have someone other than the confessor make a grand gesture. My editorial work above may be a little dishonest, but it’s certainly indicative of the issue’s overall narrative emphasis. If Simone wanted to have Alysia’s moment be hers, she should’ve placed it in a narrative that didn’t belong to Barbara Gordon, because that makes it seem like an afterthought.

And that only provides more ammunition to people who think “cis-gendered” is just “another one of those terms invented in universities aimed at eliminating the word “normal” when discussing sexual preferences.” Because people who think DC is pushing an LGBT agenda will feel like its being “shoved down their throat” when revelations like this are inserted into narratives so awkwardly. That close-up pushes Alysia into the reader’s face in a manner liable to remind readers that the forced intimacy of all close-ups is actually really creepy, and when it comes to rhetorical effect, the difference between “shoved down my throat” and “thrust in my face” is without distinction.

Minority outreach?

[ 82 ] April 12, 2013 |

Do you know what’s funny? Greg Gutfeld informs me that this is “the funniest thing [he’s] ever seen in his entire life”:

He must have had a sad little life, because there’s nothing funny about an old white woman who learned to do the rapping from Barney Rubble. Her performance differs in no discernible way from an entirely white panel doing a “black dance” from the dark heart of Africa for their entirely white audience. It’s the racist Greek party du jour done for the entertainment of millions of white people who enjoy laughing at the inferior cultural artifacts of black people. When Perino says “see how easy it is, I can be an international rap star,” the white people sitting at home are nodding their heads in agreement. The rap is easy to make.

You can tell because black people do it.

Robert Stacy McCain, a homophobe, doesn’t even understand what he calls “a basic rule of journalism.”

[ 153 ] April 11, 2013 |

I appear to have hurt Robert Stacy McCain’s feelings when I deliberately ignored the fact that he meant title of his recent post (“Homophobic Bigotry Update“) sarcastically. McCain’s response to my post is a masterpiece of overcompensation worthy of a careful rebuttal. Keep in mind that I accused him of cherry-picking stories to “scor[e] political points by exploiting statistically insignificant horrors.” He begins:

There is a basic rule of journalism—a rule that has nothing to do with politics whatsoever—that if a dog bites a man, that’s not news. News is when a man bites a dog. That is to say, newsworthy events are by definition unusual.

While it’s true that journalists sometimes mutter the phrase “Man Bites Dog,” it’s not a “rule” of journalism, much less a “basic” one. When journalists mention it, they do so dismissively because it suggests laziness and intellectual dishonesty on the part of a peer. It’s lazy because it requires nothing in the way of reporting: the events deviate from the norm so greatly that the story writes itself. It’s intellectually dishonest because paying attention to unusual events distorts public understanding of what constitutes a “common” occurrence.

Consider the local evening news: it creates the impression of a rising tide of crime, even when actual crime rates have been falling for decades, because it enthusiastically abides by the “Man Bites Dog” principle. Viewers think that men in their local area are always biting dogs and have been for years and probably will be forever. If no local men can be found biting dogs on a given day, affiliates show canned footage of dog-biting across America that convinces viewers that what they’d considered a local problem is actually a national epidemic.

Which is the opposite of the truth.

A journalist who appeals to the “Man Bites Dog” principle in order to justify his coverage of an uncommon event is confessing that he’s not interested in representing the world as it is. He’s confessing that he has a principle of selection unrelated to the truth that dictates which  statistically improbable events he calls attention to. So while McCain claims his principle of selection is the inherent newsworthiness of unusual events, his own post puts that argument to lie.

Note that I used the phrase “a deviat[ion] from the norm” to define an “unusual” event above. What constitutes a deviation from the norm depends on what a given journalist considers normal. For example, if a journalist believes that married gay men pose a greater threat to their male charges than straight couples, he wouldn’t think a story about married gay men abusing male charges to be unusual because it accords with his worldview. For the same reason, I’m not surprised when I find a ball of fire appearing over the horizon every morning. Sunrise isn’t a newsworthy event to me because it conforms to my understanding of the world. There’s nothing “unusual” about the sun being where I expect it to be.

This is why McCain’s “Man Bites Dog” excuse falls apart under its own weight: his original post was about another example of gay men abusing male wards, and it includes links to three other cases that McCain characterizes as the “unfair” facts supporters of same-sex adoption refuse to face. It’s not because he thinks such abuse by gay couples is “unusual” that he thought this story newsworthy—he thought this story “newsworthy” because he believes such abuse is utterly commonplace. It conforms with his worldview as much as the daily appearance of the sun conforms with mine, only you don’t see me writing posts about sunrises and claiming they’re newsworthy.

As the sarcastic title and tone of “Homophobic Bigotry Update” indicates, McCain knows that for him and his audience this is a “Dog Bites Man” story. He’s just not honest enough to admit that he wants to call attention to what he believes to be an epidemic of gay child-rearing perfidy, because he knows that expressing his homophobic beliefs will out him as a homophobe and is just this side of smart-enough not to want that to happen.

I know I should address his condescending lecture about literary journalism—a field about which I know nothing because I’ve never taught any of the books he mentions. I should also address the examples of “heterosexual crimes” he’s written about that somehow prove that his interest is in newsworthiness and newsworthiness alone—but then I’d have to point out that the one concerning the girl raped by the illegal alien and the one describing the rape-gang leader named Abid Mohammed Saddique and the one thanking Jerry Brown for the kidnap and rape of a 10-year-old girl don’t convince me that McCain’s a disinterested journalist calling attention to bitten dogs.

Quite the opposite.

I’m even more convinced that he’s trying to “scor[e] political points by exploiting statistically insignificant horrors,” only now I’m almost tempted to feel sorry for him, as he’s either lying to the world about himself or to himself about the world.

UPDATE: I deserve a better class of character assassins. Compared to Campos and Loomis, I’m being attacked by scribblers who can’t even do my many sins justice. It’s not like I have a blog rich and chock full of ammunition against me that McCain consulted to pathetic effect. I suppose it’ll be up to me to do myself the dirt I’ve earned.

Sigh.

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