Category Archives: Politics

Alan Moore tries taking it back: the Golliwog (#SFWApro)

The weirdest part of League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Black Dossier when I first read it was the Galley-Wag. A huge blackface figure who comes out of nowhere to save Allan and Mina, babbling insane gobbledygook—and did I mention the blackface? It turns out this was Moore’s attempt to redeem a character from 19th century fiction.


When I first saw Golliwogs in advertisements as a kid (they were in ads for Robinson’s Marmalade, IIRC), I had no idea they were blackface. I hadn’t been exposed to much racist iconography, I just assumed they were funny-looking figures (you can see an example above, taken from Herald Scotland, all rights to current holder). Yes, I was an ignorant kid in some ways.

The original Golliwog was a 19th century fictional creation by Florence Kate Upton. According to Moore, despite the blackface imagery, the character was a strong, positive one, not at all racist (I’ve heard arguments to the contrary, and no idea which is right). By putting the Golliwog in the book as one of the Blazing World’s agents, Moore thought he could redeem the character restoring him to his non-racist roots. Moore has been very unhappy with people who say he failed, eventually sinking to the time-honored cop-out that apparently it’s just not permissible for white people to write about black people. But I don’t think that’s the problem. Whatever Moore’s intent (and I’m sure it was as he says) and the merits of Upton’s original creation, I don’t think it works.d

In a sense it’s a variation of the name-dropping problem I mentioned yesterday: I never heard of the fictional golliawog, I have no reason to go “Oh, good, Moore has restored the original spirit of the character!” All I can go by is what I see, and what I see is this big, freaky blackface character. If the only way to understand what Moore’s doing is to go back and read a 19th century novel, or study the admittedly excellent annotations to LXG by Jess Nevins — well, sorry. Readers are entitled to judge the story by what’s on the page, and what’s on the page is just a golliwog. Other than looks he doesn’t conform to a racial stereotype, but he doesn’t really counter it either.

It’s not like this is a problem unique to Black Dossier or Moore. For instance when Grant Morrison temporarily turned super-hero Mary Marvel into a Dark version wearing spandex and butt floss, some of his fans argued this was not at all sexist — we should see her as an ironic meta-commentary on artists who draw women wearing spandex and butt floss. Even if that was Morrison’s intention (I don’t believe he made the claim himself) it failed: she was still a female character parading around in butt floss. Nothing meta about it. And as I’ve written before, there’s nothing meta about the Yellow Peril stereotypes in the original LXG series. If, as Comics Journal argues, Moore and O’Neil use all the rape and racist tropes to “dare their readers to parse the difference between mimesis and mockery,” I think they failed. The rapes and tropes look just like rapes and tropes, no mockery at all.

Even mockery doesn’t always help. M declaring James Bond a sexist, misogynist dinosaur in Goldeneye doesn’t make him any less sexist. Having Jonni Future (an America’s Best Comics character from a decade ago) comment about how ridiculous it is to have space adventures in a skimpy space suit that bares her ginormous cleavage doesn’t make her ironic or meta — she’s still a massively endowed woman wearing a body-baring costume.

To paraphrase film critics Siskel and Ebert, if something doesn’t work there’s no point to the creator explaining why he had to write it that way.

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The dogs are soothing

Having them next to me, available for petting and cuddling, is reducing my freak out some. Not a lot.

299947I’m reminded of a scene in the X-Men graphic novel God Loves, Man Kills (cover by Brent Eric Anderson, all rights with current holder) where Professor Xavier, known as an expert on mutants, is debating the hatemongering, mutant-loathing Reverend Stryker. At one point Cyclops thinks something to the effect of “Charles is appealing to people’s hopes; Stryker’s appealing to their fears. We can’t win.” This was a common theme in Claremont’s mutant books, and sometimes got very heavy. But just now, he seems prescient.

But I still don’t believe fear always wins. It’s not like gays, trans, blacks, Latinos or women have a free ride., but we have come a long, long way from when I was a kid. Just … not long enough. The levels of bigotry addressed against them, whether in slurs or violence, is still horrifyingly high.

And it doesn’t take much to make things worse. A small, determined band of haters can do a lot of damage, whether overtly through violence and intimidation or through pushing on the wheels of government. Which the Repubs have full access to now.There’s a line in I Was a Communist for the FBI (1951) about how there are more Reds in the United States than there were in Russia when Lenin took over — meaning, of course, that it would be easy to overthrow our democratic government.

Only Trump isn’t backed by a small cadre. He got almost half the popular vote. That’s a minority, but it’s a very big minority. A lot of them aren’t fanatical, but then lots of people in any oppressive regime aren’t fanatical. Just compliant. And who knows what voter-suppression efforts they’ll level against the rest of us by 2018?

That came out way more pessimistic than it sounded in my head. And we don’t know for sure what’s going to happen in January. But I have a feeling it will be a long time and a lot of work and elections before we get this country back to hope.

Update: Krugman suggests we didn’t understand the country we were living in—the degree to which some people would choose racial and gender hierarchy over “American” values. Or would vote Republican because that’s what they always do. Living in the Florida Panhandle, I’ve never been under any delusions about that. But I still didn’t think Trump would win.


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A fact so dread, he faintly said, extinguishes all hope

Which is to say Trump won. The sexually harasser, inept businessman, bigot, the man willing to accept support from white supremacist, the borderline fascist, took the White House. None of that mattered as much to his supporters as their promise of a champion who would put the non-white, non-straight, non-male, non-Christian hordes supposedly oppressing them back in their place.

I knew that. I was under no delusion that this was a slam dunk until the votes were counted, but I (and most of the prognosticators) thought it was going Clinton. She had a better-run campaign.Better policies. Government experience. The Latino turnout was high.  Perhaps I’d finally see a woman take the top spot.

Nope. Why not? Was it white/straight/male/Christian resentment at steadily losing their privilege year after year? Did Repub voter suppression efforts play a role? Did the FBI talking breathlessly about non-existent scandals make a difference? Or the media going heavy on Crooked Hilary! stories and not covering policy? Were there a lot of people talking Clinton but secretly Trump? I’m sure we’ll see much analysis in the days to come.

So for the next four years, minimum, we have President Trump. Anti-immigrant. Pro-white dominance. Inept and incredibly corrupt. Despises women, the disabled, Latinos. Threatens to throw his political enemies in jail and make it easier to sue the press that criticizes him. With a majority Republican senate that can sign off on his every appointment.

The Supreme Court. The lower federal courts. The executive branch regulatory agencies—with the wrong people in key positions and guidance from the top, their focus or willingness to enforce the law can change radically. The military, whom he’s eager to use, except against Russia, whom we’re too tough on (funny, I remember when talk like that would have made him a suspect Commie).

A very conservative Congress that is probably salivating at stripping away as much of liberalism as possible. Even in the best circumstances, we’ll probably have Trump willing to sign whatever the Congress puts in front of him, if they do it with enough deference. Obamacare goes, I’m sure. And after it, as much of gay rights, women’s rights, trans rights, non-Christian rights as they can get away with. Even if Mike Pence gets to do most of the governing, I don’t think that right-to-life zealot is going to lead us to a shinier tomorrow.

And the possibility right-wing violence will uptick, while the right-wing government focuses on the scary Muslims as the real threat.

I wasn’t pleased when W. Bush one in 2000 but it wasn’t an obvious disaster. Without 9/11, it might not have been. With Trump, it’s pretty obvious going in.

And after four more years of voter suppression, voter fraud stories, judges more sympathetic to the right… I’m not looking forward to 2020. Especially when so many Americans voted Trump this time.

As a white male I’m less of a target for the seething mass of hate Trump’s stirring up. But the Republicans are lousy at running the economy for the benefit of everyone except the rich. That affects me. I have family and friends who are women and minorities. That affects me. And while it’s unclear at press time, it looks like we may get NC Governor McCrory of HB2 infamy back again, and that definitely affects me.

I will admit I’m never happy when Republicans win but the next presidential term looks to be exceptionally odious.

The second Black Dossier post goes up tomorrow



Filed under economics, Politics, Undead sexist cliches

Jeez, I No Sooner Finished Last Thursday’s Election Post—

Which you may remember included a discussion of media focusing on crap like Clinton’s emails and not on Trump’s many messes. And lo and behold, The Hill decides to run a story on how Africans love Trump (if you overlook several really big nations). Meanwhile, the FBI supposedly claims a Clinton indictment is on the way, even though prosecutors have already said no (more from LGM). And bizarrely, it appears the Florida GOP is trying to fool Latino voters by claiming one Dem candidate is a Trumpite.

•It’s no surprise the Republican establishment did not reject Trump. And they’re already talking about impeaching Clinton. No surprise, again, given their stated goal in 2009 was to make Barack Obama “a one-term president.” And yet four years of Republicans being sullen attack dogs is still preferable to what Trump would let them do

•Automatic registration to vote insults the civil rights movement, according to the Alabama election chief.

•Someone burns a black church and leaves a vote Trump message. An illegal vote Trump sign at one polling place was booby-trapped with razors. And a Trump-supporting, pro-confederate Illinois man has killed two cops.

Pakistan wants to deport Afghan refugees, including the woman from that famous refugee photograph.

•In the wake of the coup, Turkish security forces resort to torture.

•Hundreds have died in Syria from ISIS-planted mines set to kill civilians.

•Some people did go to jail after the Malheur Refuge incident. At Hullabaloo, a blogger points out the government handled it much better than Waco or Ruby Ridge.

•The FCC is looking at rules to override mandatory arbitration clauses in broadband contracts, and restricting what ISPs can do with your private information. Providers are talking lawsuits, just as they like to sue over Google fiber. Can’t blame them, after all — just look how much AT&T makes selling personal data to police.

•Twenty-three lawmakers have asked how the Department of Justice wants to use its proposed new power to hack computers remotely. Other senators are worried about the power that would accrue after a proposed merger of AT&T and Time Warner.

•On a related topic, should police need a warrant to obtain your cellphone location data? My response would be yes!

•In contrast to Megan McArdle calling on the media to hire more conservatives, Phillip Longman has a different solution to restoring the right-wing’s luster: break corporate monopolies.

•A judge rules that George Washington has no worthwhile insights on biometric data collection.

•A company claims it has the legal ownership of the process for notifying customers when their package ships.

•Facebook allows advertisers to target Facebook users based on ethnic affinity. Which the company insists has nothing to do with race.

•AT&T is trying a variety of legal approaches to keep Google Fiber out of Nashville. The FCC has told the court that contrary to AT&T, FCC rules are not an obstacle to Google.

•A Chipotle manager says he was fired for refusing to cheat employees.

•McDonalds is paying nearly $4 million to settle labor violations against one of its franchisees. Although the federal government has ruled McDonalds is liable for franchisee labor violations, the corporation still contests that view.

•AirBnB’s new polices say people renting out property through the site can’t discriminate. Right-winger Rod Dreher feels oppressed.

•More charges that Amazon cheats its delivery drivers.

•Just remember this election really is important. So vote!

But to end on a cheerful note, a goofy looking monster, cover by Marie Severin. All rights with current holder. For the record, she was working with the interior art, which is a lot goofier (though done by talented Reed Crandall)


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Two And Columns out

By happenstance an older one that got delayed and the latest came out at the same time.

Trump and Masculinity looks at how Trump defines himself partly in relation to women. Specifically that beautiful women do his bidding, and he’s entitled to pronounced judgment on their hotness.

Insults and Women looks at Ann Coulter’s argument that if the media don’t object to her being called the “c word” obviously they’re only objecting to Trump’s use of the p-word (which Coulter pretends is the only issue in the Trump tape) because they’re in the tank for Clinton.

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Using my great power for good: election-related links

Because with the influence my blog has, I can totally ensure a Clinton win!

•James Comey’s announcement he’s reopening the email case is just another case of Republicans working the refs. Vox and Rolling Stone look at how the media have jumped on the Clinton Email Scandal (Digby too): ooooh, they’ve finally nailed her hide to the wall! Except there’s no evidence she’s done anything, and she’s been specifically cleared on repeated, assorted charges and investigations. Daily Howler has some specifics about how the media have over-reacted to the “October bombshell.” Whereas Trump, for all his cries of “Crooked Hilary,” faces a boatload of serious charges and lawsuits that don’t get covered as much. LGM weighs in.

I’m reminded of an old article from Bill Clinton’s presidency in which Sally Quinn (wife of the WaPo publisher) discussed how much the Washington press corps loathed Clinton for the Lewinsky affair: how dare that nobody come into their town and stir up scandal, making their community look bad? They would never forgive him! Or, it seems, his wife.

•If the various criminal investigations into Trump aren’t bad enough, he’s revitalized the white supremacist movement, and never disavowed their support. Case in point, here’s a video by a Trump supporter linking Obama and the Clintons with Sinister Foreign Powers …like Israel.

•Republicans in the Senate are already admitting they won’t confirm a Supreme Court justice if Clinton’s elected. Despite Ted Cruz’ pious assurances that this is a matter of principle, I guarantee that if the tables were reversed, Cruz and his ilk would be shrieking about the corrupt power games denying them their justices.

•Newt Gingrich blows up and tells Fox News’ Megyn Kelly she’s obsessed with sex because she keeps bringing up Trump’s sexual harassment history. I’m not surprised Gingrich, an adulterer who served divorce papers on his wife while she was in the hospital, thinks personal sexual history (except of course Bill Clinton’s) should be off the table.

•I suppose it’s no surprise we’re already getting warnings from the media that a Clinton Administration shouldn’t be too liberal. And that if only Democrats hadn’t been so hard on Romney and McCain, people would have taken them seriously about Trump? Who, pray tell? Republicans? Or the media obsessed with the Clinton emails? Would Trump voters have stopped supporting their man? I think not (neither does LGM). Oh, and we should also be nicer to Trump voters.

•The Daily Banter says, by contrast, that we can’t find common ground with Trump supporters — and we shouldn’t. Some supposed Trump voters, though, are secretly voting Clinton.

•You may have heard that a conservative named Evan McMullin is running for president. For some right-wingers he’s the white knight for this election: if Trump and Clinton deadlock, the House of Representatives can reject them both and elect McMullin! Heck, electors aren’t obligated to vote for the candidates who won their state, so the electoral college should vote McMullin anyway!

•Obama delivers a smackdown on Congressman Darrell Issa.

•A city clerk in Green Bay Wisconsin says restricting on-campus early voting is good because students vote Dem. So better if they don’t vote.

•Maybe one reason Trump’s such a dick is that having grown up rich, he’s been surrounded by people who are willing to kowtow to his bullshit.

•GQ argues that Trump followers constitute a cult.


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Perhaps conservative ideas just suck

Ross Douthat explains that conservative intellectuals are in crisis. After years managing the “right wing populists” who make up most of the conservative world and using their support against the liberal “managerial class” — the people who run schools, Hollywood, the bureaucracy, the courts — “the populists have seemingly decided that they can get along just fine without any elite direction whatsoever.” Intellectuals fatal mistakes were a)never converting the managerial class to conservatism, which would have made thinkers like himself independent of the unwashed mashes; b)not realizing how hate-filled the base was, not to mention non-intellectual pundits such as Rush Limbaugh. Now in the wake of the Iraq War’s failure, the base has rejected the thinkers, oh, noes!

The solution? Either educate the base to be less “populist” (Douthat carefully avoids works like racist, bigoted, sexist, etc.) or to somehow “sweep the managerial class away” because it’s “inherently left wing.” Or to somehow create a conservative elite that can take them over in a “prudential, reflective, virtuous manner respectful of both freedom and tradition.”

Meanwhile Megan McArdle pushes her latest iteration of “Trump is liberals’ fault.” This time it’s because the mainstream media don’t hire enough conservatives. That leaves the right stuck in its own media world, rejected by the mainstream and angry: “Conservative media, in other words, became an ideological ghetto. And ghettos often develop pathologies.”

Neither argument is convincing. Douthat, I think, is more in denial than anything else. He seems shocked to discover that his deep thoughts about abstinence (good) and morality are less interesting to the Republican base than the desire to lash out at immigrants, women, minorities and pretty much everyone who isn’t them. Maybe he’s genuinely shocked, though as Repubs have been dog-whistling racism for 40-plus years, that would make him pretty dense.

And Douthat’s solution is a variation of his demands for conservatives to be more reactionary — wouldn’t it be great if smart people like himself could run things without having to worry what the base thinks or wants (McArdle similarly argued that it would be perfectly reasonable for the GOP to drop Trump regardless of his winning the primaries)? His argument that the “managerial class” is inherently left-wing” is a nice touch because “inherently” implies they’re somehow irrationally biased against right-wing wisdom such as his own.

McArdle’s solution to the intellectual’s dilemma is affirmative action: the liberal media are biased against sound right-wing ideas, but if they gave more conservative jobs then those ideas would find a home, and there’d be less need for that conservative ghetto. Of course this ignores the existence of Fox News, Douthat’s column at the NYT (along with the equally loathsome David Brooks), Pat Buchanan (who thinks everything was better when blacks knew their place) being a mainstream pundit for years and McArdle herself having a long-time column at Bloomberg. Ghettos are marked by poverty; McArdle and Brooks are multimillionaires

Nor does McArdle offer any specifics to prove her case — just what are these conservative ideas the liberal media refuses to take seriously? That Muslims should be subject to extra scrutiny? Bullshit claims that gay marriage is evil (“the progress of sexual individualism” in Douthat’s words) or that consent is unimportant? Her own theory that inequality of opportunity is a good thing? Or her belief poor people are poor because they’re failures? Sean Hannity’s conveniently changing views on Louis Farrakhan? The right-wing support for Trump’s claims the vote is rigged? Joe Scarborough’s explanation that only latte-sipping elitists are concerned by Trump refusing to accept a Clinton win?  Or McArdle’s belief that even when she’s wrong she shouldn’t be criticized for it?

What neither will consider is that possibly the reason their ideas aren’t taken serious is because they’re bad ideas.

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