Friday, November 14, 2008

Women They Love to Hate

The Incomparable One, Bob Somerby, dissects Olbermann and Archie Bunker (my emphasis):

He’s gotta do it: Progressive interests would be better served if our leaders could stop saying things like what follows. On Wednesday evening, Keith Olbermann was chatting with his “friend,” Margaret Carlson about—what else?—Sarah Palin. Carlson was lounging about the Republican Governors Conference in snowbound Miami:

CARLSON (11/12/08): We’ll always have Sarah Palin, it seems. But here, actually, the governors are wanting to talk about 2010, because the number 2012 is code for talking about Sarah Palin, which was where they do not want to go. Her saying that she doesn’t represent herself, she represents an entire movement that’s going to save the Republican party is just what they quietly don’t want to happen. If they had their way, she wouldn’t be here tomorrow.

OLBERMANN: Wow. I mean, to what degree is that the other prominent Republican governors who got some passing mention during this campaign, with an eye towards 2012—Jindal, Pawlenty, Crist? Is there any sense that any of them are forming a power base behind Palin? Or are they intending to, you know, cut her up like a Roman dictator and smuggle her out under their robes?

CARLSON: Ha, ha. Well, they only say that quietly, Keith.

Sorry, but that’s very strange. A few months ago, Olbermann apologized for picturing Hillary Clinton getting beaten up by a bunch of goons behind locked doors. This week, he was picturing Sarah Palin getting cut up into pieces.

Within moments, he mockingly compared her to Lindsay Lohan—then, to Dizzy Dean.

It’s always surprising to see the way such fellows discuss the women they hate. They seem to find it hard to do so without picturing violence or turning to overt, gender-based derision. In our view, Palin is a remarkably underwhelming figure, in ways which are quite easy to define. You don’t have to compare her to Lohan, or picture her being killed—unless your skills are remarkably weak, or you simply enjoy hating women. But MSNBC has trafficked, for many years, in weird, remarkable woman-loathing. And when it comes to their new uber-star, it seems he’s gotta have it.

But then, here’s Archie Bunker—sorry, Josh Marshall—letting us know, just yesterday, who the latest “dingbat” is. Without even bothering to report what this new "dingbat" actually said! [Anglachel note - WKJM has belatedly identified the woman he was deriding.]

But so it goes as progressive intellectual standards spiral steadily downward. Olbermann’s performance on Wednesday’s show was an unfortunate case in point. He performed in ways which used to define the woeful standards of pseudo-con talk. ...

Increasingly, it’s sad to watch the work done on Countdown. Increasingly, that work reflects the lowball intellectual standards pioneered by pseudo-conservative talk. In the long run, progressive interests will not be served by dumbing down the progressive base. It may be good for ratings and salaries—but it can’t be good for the country. This country badly needs to be smart.

(By the way: There has been a lot of chortling this week about the Martin Eisenstadt hoax. On October 16, Olbermann showed remarkably odd judgment in the way he handled one part of this story. No, he wasn’t taken in by the part of the hoax allegedly involving Joe the Plumber. But in repeating claims which he knew were untrue, he almost seemed to be trying to make sure that some viewers did.)

Increasingly, Olbermann offers extremely weak work. What can you say about a guy who can’t lay out Palin’s obvious weaknesses without resorting to gender-based trashing? But most strikingly, Olbermann’s instinct for violent imagery doesn’t seem to want to quit. This is bad for progressive interests, and it’s bad for young men and young women. We’d have to say it’s just plain bad for the world in which we all live. Can someone explain why “progressive” leaders can’t seem to quit this kind of talk?

Perhaps more to the point, why don't we have more men like Bob Somerby unflinchingly calling out the misogyny of people like Olbermann?

Hannah Arendt once described this situation as that she was not so much concerned about Bluebeard himself (pirate, marauder, criminal) as she was by those who would not find Bluebeard objectionable. I take this to mean that while there will always be people who will engage in violence and inhumane acts, the danger to a population is those people who do not see that kind of behavior as needing opposition. Perhaps they view it ironically, or explain it away, or secretly approve because it is of momentary advantage to themselves, or because it allows them to vicariously enjoy the expression of things they (usually) know better than to say out loud.

The last two reasons are what we saw on parade this electoral cycle. People like Olbermann would be outrageous and then the enablers would try to explain why it wasn't so bad instead of standing up to the violence and rejecting it. The overall language and imagery would rachet up in the next round. The introduction of violent, misogynist themes into political discourse, the normalization of exhortations or suggestions to do physical harm to non-compliant women, all of it explained away as self-defense mixed with just desserts for getting out of line - hmm, where on the political spectrum is that usually located?

Right. Not anymore.



Anonymous said...

Spot on, as usual. Im kinda struck by how, even in prog-blog land, points like yours and Somerby's get pooh-poohed. Just today at WhiskeyFire, Molly Ivors made a pretty basic/vanilla ppoint about avoiding gender and class slurs against Palin. I thought it was pretty self-explanatory and understandable, but you should have seen the comment stream (30+ and counting) where guys desperately clung to their right to ridicule her and resenting MI for the post! Really eye-opening and disappointing.

Unknown said...

It's not Olberman, but the audience. It's not the misogynists, but the society that accepts them. It's not the system, but those who live and accept the system.

There will be no change until women see that a misogynistic attack against any woman, be it Palin or Clinton, is an attack against all women. Until we defend and demand that women stop their attack on other women, we will continue to see men doing what comes natural to them. To that end, I teach my grandson who is only 10 years old, that men do not hit women, and therefore he must stop his practice of hitting my 9 year old granddaughter when he's angry. It must be done while the young absorb the lessons if we're to succeed. It's too late for Olberman to learn, but he can suffer the consequences of his behavior when we turn him off. FDL, Jeralyn and other women who did not respect and defended Clinton or Palin will never see me at their website, not will they get my respect. That's all I can do, but I know it will be accomplished one person at a time.

oceans said...

This really underscores the irony of all the references to MLK Jr. since November 4. In all the self-congratulatory back-patting, those invoking Dr. King seem to have forgotten a particularly apt quote: "When I look back it's not the loudness of my enemies I'd remember; it's the silence of my friends."

The utter moral and intellectual bankruptcy of the "progressive" movement never ceases to amaze me.

The only positive outcome is that we know for a fact that we can never rely on "progressives" for anything.

Shainzona said...

I remember a time when liberals and progressives of all stripes would rise up in loud anger when the far right (personified by Limbaugh et al) would attack liberal values, liberal spokespeople, and liberal policies. In fact, I’m pretty sure that because of this joint vocal outrage, I found my voice – to say NO that shouldn’t be.

I sit in wonderment now to see many of those same people doing exactly the same thing as Limbaugh – exactly the same thing.

The only thing that I can see that swung these fools over to the Dark Side was one person. Hillary Clinton. I remember being astonished in February when I read a Frank Rich column that tore Clinton to pieces. I looked around for the outrage and there was none. In fact, there was a round of applause from the left blogosphere as Frank Rich was raised to the level of a god – with his Sunday columns being a sure bet to make the wreck, er, I mean, rec list. Then Olbermann swung into high gear and not only was every one of his “Special” comments diarized by multiple posts, but he even got into the act himself – and I’m sure was thrilled to death over his 1,000 comments for each tirade (wanna bet he has a scrapbook?).

This morning I looked over the NYTimes as I do every morning and once again was stunned to find the fact that Obama might even be talking to HRC about any job in his administration to be worthy of a front page article. I thought to myself, “WTF”? Wouldn’t it make tremendous sense for any POTUS–Elect to look at his/her worthy opponent for skills and experience on a POTUS level? And in this case, Obama’s more-than-worthy opponent actually received more votes in the primary than he did. So what gives?

Of course, what gives is that Hillary Clinton is first a woman, second a Clinton and third, would have been a better POTUS than the one we’re now stuck with for the next four years. (Ahhh, belatedly, those chickens will come home to roost!).

I happened to see CNN the other night and sat in rapt attention as entire shows were dedicated to ripping Sarah Palin to pieces – still. It was shocking to see “reporters” spinning every comment, smile, nod or wink in ways that no normal person would ever see.

The dumbing down of America is almost complete and may be irreversible unless and until we stand up and say “We’re mad as hell and we’re not going to take it anymore.” Loudly. And with many, many voices.

Unknown said...

Meanwhile, young girls in Afghanistan get acid thrown on them for attending school.

salmonrising said...

The past few months I have had many conversations degenerate into stunned silence as every single one of my liberal "feminist" friends cannot understand my rants about the misogyny against Palin. In their eyes, Palin is the antithesis of everything they consider feminism to represent. At first I doubted my own command of the facts and debating skills, but while they are not perfect they are adequate to convey my thinking. Effect so far? Nada. Zip.

For me that is even more frustrating than the corporate media behavior. These are all women (and some men) who are old enough to know better, and, interestingly, the men seem quite a bit less virulent in their oppostion to Palin than the women. What on earth has led so many liberal women to have the shrieking meemies over Sarah Palin???

Anne said...

Increasingly, it’s sad to watch the work done on Countdown. Increasingly, that work reflects the lowball intellectual standards pioneered by pseudo-conservative talk. In the long run, progressive interests will not be served by dumbing down the progressive base. It may be good for ratings and salaries—but it can’t be good for the country

I would not define Countdown or any program on NBC/ MSM as progressive media. Or did I misunderstand?
And really the dumbing down of the progressive base has happened already .
When it comes to the topic of women and the working class, IMO sadly , don't look for improvement any time soon.

When I hear my fellow liberal women friends freaking over Sarah Palin, sorry to say, it sounds like sexual jealousy to me. I mean their response is not normal when talking about a politician.