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Agenda Bender
Saturday, October 26, 2002  

One Way Hunches

Thanks to Alex for his email pointing to the Goldberg to Dreher gay doubleplay speculation on Muhammad and Malvo. I'd already read that this spec was bubbling up on various lists. Mostly to the right. But I'd missed these posts on the Corner since the posts from Friday appear in two different places (due to the blogger hack?).

The idea had bubbled up like bad champagne on both sides of my brain too. But hey I'm that way. Always surprises me how fast the Cornerarian's thoughts wing their way there. They often get there before me (and gay is my default assumption). If hypocrisy
is the tribute conscience pays to virtue, then eveready gay speculation is the tribute the Corner pays to gay visibility and consciousness. You have to say to Rod and Jonah's credit that at least they always keep the possibility that someone might be gay at the forefront of their thoughts. Well, people who have distinguished themselves as traitors (Taliban Johnny) and mass murderers anyway. Their speculations tend to run in the other direction for people who are indisputably gay and heroic. Like say a gay priest who is killed while ministering to fireman. Dreher seems to accept that Father Mychal was gay but he'll always link to articles claiming he couldn't have been-he never came on to me!

Jonah's post was particularly smirkalicious, even for him:

We know the Sniper is a Nation of Islam Muslim (which is to say he belongs to a cult that uses Islamic jargon). We know he's black. But I've got this nagging feeling we might find out that he also practices an alternative lifestyle -- I mean besides from all of the murdering. There's just something about this Batman and Robin act -- Malvo is his "ward"? --- that strikes me as odd, in a specific way. Call it a hunch. Not that there's anything wrong with that.
Posted 10:26 AM

That "THREEFER" is fascinating. A joking reference by a worldly sophisticate to... exactly what? The list of things everyone in the Corner isn't? I have a "nagging feeling" Muhammad and Malvo would qualify as THOUSANDFERS under that rule.

And why doesn't it also strike Jonah as odd that Muhammad would go to the trouble of converting to the most openly anti-gay religious movement in the US while practicing the "alternative lifestyle" the Nation publicly scorns? Not that it's impossible, denial of desires through intense identification with the opposite is hardly unheard of, but you'd think this twist in his threefer hunch would have caught Jonah's attention.

You'd think the facts of the situation would have caught his attention too--a 17 year old boy, an illegal immigrant to this country since the age of 13 spends four years bouncing between makeshift living arrangements with his destitute mother, all the while in legal peril. This is known as having few if any options (so Malvo is up to a FOURFER on the non-Corner list). I mean why didn't he just apply to Brown and get on with his life? Instead he goes befriending an older guy in the homeless shelter (no doubt Jonah could have told him he wouldn't meet the best sort there), a guy with a need to lead and shape--even if the troops under his command numbered exactly one. A guy with a history of abducting his own children and trying to rule them from afar when they weren't under his direct control.

Call it a hunch, but these facts are just too far from Jonah's experiences for him to process.

Alternate eveready pic links:one, two, three, four.

2:07 PM

Friday, October 25, 2002

Good Point

The tale of John Muhamad's travels across the US with his stepson (common law son? something else under the sun?) is mostly just pathetic. Carsleeping/homeless shelter/ life-as-a-roadtrip-with-nowhere-to-go sad. Sadder by far for Malvo, of course, who was a young man in this country illegally. He was well aware of his precarious legal situation and disappeared with Muhammad for good after authorities had started asking questions again. The testimony of those who met the pair tell of Malvo saying he was tired of the endless trek, and indicate that Muhammad was treating him as his cult of one, among other things starving him with a crackers and honey diet.

This story from the WaPo profile made me laugh though. But even here the laugh almost doesn't make it through the pathos:

Late last year, Muhammad was seen at the Seafarers Grill in Tacoma, trying to sell frozen steaks to customers, said Tony Jones, the chef. "He said he was selling the steaks to buy his kids Christmas presents," Jones said. "He said, 'My kids are hungry.' I said, 'Go home and feed them steaks.' "

Even better background story here via Mr. Sullivan. This take more sinister than sad.

6:45 PM


Our Flag Was Still There

The Espn stats for Esera Tuaolo, the former NFL defensive lineman who has just come out as gay. The joke that is waiting in the wings: Tuaolo was originally drafted by the Packers.

The clue that was lurking in Esera's profile (aside from his name): "Has sung the National Anthem at several sporting events ..." Wonder if those gigs will trail off.

Sterling Sharpe, a fellow Packer also has an interesting name. And then there is
his interesting way with words. He's quoted as saying Tuaolo "would have been eaten alive" if he'd revealed he was gay while still in the NFL.

6:09 PM

Thursday, October 24, 2002

Game Day

In honor of the arrest of the probable Dead-eye DICK sniper (still think Agenda Bender's nick for the killer beat all the others) today is game day.

First a question: Are last night's arrests a set-back for Bring Your Child To Work Day?

Ingredients of the game:

Jesse Walker linked the site where all things are possible saying some will laugh and some will wonder what's the joke? Is there really a person anywhere who wouldn't find this funny?

Everyone is linking the GWB madlibs speech generator. But for the wrong reasons. It's speech generating abilities are too limited. But it's a good sound effect and Bush non-sequitur palette.

Nobody is feeling the Azn Pride like Agenda B, though. "Got Rice Bitch" has been around forever but its beauty never fades. This is the greatest music video ever made, the greatest flash movie ever made and the holiest artifact on the net. My neighborhood used to be full of Vietnamese and Cambodians but it was only a temporary stop. They ended up finding other parts of the city more compatible, so The AZn flavor is mostly gone, the francophone Africans are now in ascendant. It was metalhead times when the Viet and Cambo kids were around, never will forget them walking down the street singing "We're Not Gonna Take It". The inescapable hiphop gravity pulled them in before long, so the memory of that metal moment is especially moving, its time was so brief.

OK now here is the game. Get them all up and running. "Got Rice Bitch" is the backbone. is the ambient overlay.

And the Bush speechifier is your DJ Shadow/Spooky/Whothefuckever playskool turntablist toolkit.

I'm doing it now. Can you hear it? Party over here! Got Rice Saddam Hussein? Anything is possible [crowd boo].

11:37 AM

Wednesday, October 23, 2002

Wedding Music Alert

Listen to me and listen to me well: I have danced the Macarena and Las Ketchup is NO Macarena.

3:17 PM

Tuesday, October 22, 2002

Didn't I Blow Your Mind (this time)

An update to the post below: Tony Adragna wote me that he thought I misunderstood the context of the post of his I quoted and that I didn't acknowledge that while he has been critical at times of Sullivan's polemics he has always defended Sullivan the person against his more malicious critics. He is right about the second point, I should have noted that he has always been fair to Sullivan and on the angelic side on the issue of argumentation by smear (as here). As to context I understand that Tony's explanation of the charge of hypocrisy was in the form of a hypothetical inside a contignecy wrapped in a conditional and I understood that when I wrote I found it galling.

It's just that I think these kind of charges, accusations of hypocrisy arising out of an alleged disconnect between public pronouncements and the most personal private behavior, are inherently dangerous. They are the controversialists version of weapons of mass destruction. And their use even in circumstances where public words are at odds with private acts and where this difference exposes hypocrisy that is both glaring and relevant, that even in such extreme cases this form of argumentation is highly problematic, the weapon of last resort.

In circumstances where this test is failed utterly as it is failed with regard to Sullivan, then the charges are nothing but the most cynical ploy. They are assassination by other means , destruction by publicity. So to my mind even to attempt an explanation of how such charges might have had been allowed if the facts had been otherwise is a mistake . You end up surfing on the backwash wave from the flood that the original accusers set loose when they dynamited the dam between public and private. Any association, even by way of airy hypotheticals, is unfortunate. It puts you in their miserable proximity. Leave the saboteurs to splash around in the dirty water with only each other's unhappy company.

Atrios responds at the temporary Escahton site (Did Eschaton have to find higher ground away from the floodwaters too? Here's hoping). Can't say Atrios persuaded me at all. Check it out for yourself-- maybe you are easier. But Atrios would do himself a big favor by staying away from logical constructs like the following:

"Andy has accused my "ilk" of wishing death on Americans and supporting the abuses of brutal oppressive regimes, quite seriously. Because of this, when someone hyperbolically accuses Andy of, for example, wishing death on all Africans due to his support for the pharmaceutical industry's drug pricing policies, I don't think he can cry fowl."

Even allowing for the factual basis of the first sentence above (which I don't), debate by escalating slander is not a winning game.

There are also comments to Atrios on his page. Some reasonable and a few repulsive. Surf's up.

A record of rare beauty here.

10:23 AM

Monday, October 21, 2002

But You Blew My Mind

Arthur Silber at Light of Reason is trying to light up one of the darker rooms of the human psyche, so I thought I'd bring my flashlight along. (Looking for the lyrics to Flashlight I found these funklementarian inspired Kenneth Cole shoes---everybody needs a pair of these under the bed, under the bed.)

The impetus for Arthur's efforts is the Andrew Sullivan bashing that is a defining characteristic of more than a few port listing bloggers. In several extreme cases it almost amounts to a lifestyle choice all its own, obsessive hatred of Sullivan as raison d'etre. I first became aware of how deep the animus against Sullivan ran at the time his sex life was publicized in an attempt to discredit and humiliate him. Sullivan wrote at the time that some had expressed hope in net forums that they could shame Sullivan unto suicide with their tireless pursuit (as in run to ground) of his sex life.

I visited a few of those forums and found that if anything Sullivan had understated the case. I'm not easily shocked, least of all by the viciousness of ideological fanatics , but the consistently depraved tone of the attacks amazed me. From the hyper-creepy prurience of their fascination with Sullivan's sex life, drug use, and choice in footwear to their joyful badinage about Sullivan's HIV status and their amused speculations on his overall health, a few minutes spent in their squalid company would make you feel unclean for a week. Which reminds me of the snap diagnosis Dr. Britney Spears offered to a relentless camcorder voyeur who was stalking her on the beach in Miami "You are a sad motherfucker". Yes, I believe that is the clinical term.

The post that got this going in recent days was by Charles Murtagh who wrote about left wing gay bashing, pointing to Atrios of the Eschaton blog. Atrios had reprinted book title suggestions for Sullivan that were copied from a Datalounge forum.

Datalounge is gay news and opinion site with the intellectual breadth of an Al Gore bumpersticker, so Atrios defended his repost of the witless scurrilities from Datalounge by suggesting it can't really be homophobia since it's homos making the jokes. Ignoring the timeless truth that insults repeated are owned in their entirety by those who repeat them. Ignoring the 10 years and counting truth that the sexpref of a poster to datalounge is no more self-evident than is the real world gender of players whose Everquest incarnation is an elfen Stevie Nicks. Ignoring the fact that there were no jokes worth repeating anywhere in the bunch. Get your laugh on and read them for your self. A sample to speed you on your way:

Homosexauls[sic] are HIV spreading perverts, and I'm living proof. By Andy Sullivan

Yeah, there's a sure sign of a card carrying fag--can't spell homosexual. But of course it matters not at all how the haters get their orgasms . Framing the question as whether gays can be homophobic begs the question entirely. Homophobia is a woefully inexact term. It springs from old battles against the psychiatric classification of homosexuality as a disease. Its coining was a tactical maneuver to out disease the psychiatric establishment. You call our sex lives a disease so we'll call your classification of us a disease. Hijack the jargon and reupholster the couch. It made sense at the time but the word has lingered long after that battle was won. We call all the other hatreds by more honest names.

Fear plays a part in some hatreds but fear most often stays what it is. Fear is a superstar in its own right. Don't need no stinkin' hate to make a name for itself. More lyrics.

Most people who hate homosexuals and feel disgust in their presence just flat out hate homos and are disgusted by them. Among the haters are individuals whose own sexual repertoires include homosexual acts. Still more lyrical insight.

So among the gay haters of Sullivan those who hate the man for his ideas and his politics only will express their hatred for him along ideological lines. Those who hate his ideas and politics but who also harbor self-disgust (and others-disgust) will let the rest of us in on their secret by making Sullivan's sex life central to their critique. (Need I mention this is true of the straight haters of Sulllivan too, left though they may be).

Is this even slightly controversial? I hold no one in lower intellectual esteem than Richard Goldstein. Ok, maybe Tony Kushner. I have no hesitation calling them idiots and every synonym for idiot the english language offers. I think they are bad writers, pretentious, vague and humorless. Yet it wouldn't occur to me to further my criticism of them with details of their sex lives. It is just a profoundly fucked up thing to do. Does anyone honestly think it's just a coincidence that Sullivan alone among opinionistas has been attacked on this level? Where are the attacks on the sex lives of Christopher Hitchens, Maureen Dowd, Noam Chomsky, Daniel Pipes, Edward Said, and Bernard Lewis? They are variously despised by the left and the right and I'd wager they are hated as much as Sullivan is by their ideological foes. So why is it that only the openly gay man in the meme wars gets vilified for his politics AND his sex life? No points for the correct answer.

The abysmal Sullywatch which I'd never read before gives the fall back defense that it's all about the HIV and the hypocrisy. That Sullivan's ideas are at variance with his life and his health is the side effect of that variance and this makes that differential and all its consequences a matter for public discussion. I don't know anything about Sullywatch beyond the few hundred words I read there tonight but I know whoever wrote them is not gay. And I know whoever wrote them is deeply ignorant of the realities of gay men's lives in the HIV decades. To hold Sullivan up as an exemplar of sexual hypocrisy is so thoroughly perverse given Sullivan's record of honesty about both his sexuality and his HIV status that only the truly clueless can indulge in it. The malign (ie the willfully clueless) can indulge in it too but they give their guilty self-knowledge away with interlinear feints and pirouettes--something Mr. Sullywatch doesn't do--he just guilelessly recites arguments he doesn't understand.

Anyone who thinks Sullivan's level of candor is easy or common is fooling themselves but they aren't fooling me. Don't try to dazzle me with your superior minefield waltzing skills when you've never danced anywhere near it. And don't try to recast honorable candor as culpable deceit if you are anywhere near me.

Which is why these lines in Tony Adragna's take on this are so galling: "The whole "bare backing" thing was to show a contradiction between what Sullivan does and what he says. I think the charge is specious, but if it were actually true, then it would be nothing other than hypocrisy." Uh, Tony when specious charges are made the person wrongly charged should be let out of the dock, period. I think the principle that things are as they are but would be otherwise if they were otherwise doesn't really require further elaboration. So I give you credit for recognizing the plain fact that the charge of hypocrisy was untrue but your credit is wiped out by your bank panic explication that if the liars hadn't been lying the lie wouldn't have been a lie and they would have had a point. No shit. But they did lie and they didn't have a point. All shit.

Tony does better here: "I said "taunting" above, and that's exactly what it is, but it's not because of Andrew's sexuality. Rather, it's because of Andrew's politics. The stuff that we see Atrios pointing to, or SullyWatch's reference to Andrew as the "Blog Queen", are the radical left's attempt at calling Andrew a hypocrite — analogous to calling Justice Thomas an "Uncle Tom"."

I think this starts out well. References to Sullivan's sexual preference, even derogatory ones, are of a different order than specific reference to his sexual life. Blog Queen is to me wholly inoffensive. I don't think it comes anywhere near to "Uncle Tom" or even denotes hypocrisy. It expresses disdain, it's a dismissal of Sullivan as trifling and vain. Perfectly allowable in diatribe. As is the naked charge of hypocrisy allowable, hell, it is THE indispensable word of political invective.

But then Tony lets me down again by restating the canard at the heart of this. "Let's not confuse this with homophobia born of an irrational intolerance of homosexuals. The attacks on Andrew Sullivan are something different — a calculated attempt by a cabal of ideologues who share an intense hatred of Andrew Sullivan." Please ignore the dirty words the kids write on the wall, the words aren't significant, the kids are just expressing their distaste for the wall. Again why is Sullivan hatred so suffused with sex and hatred of Chomsky and Hitchens so fucking chaste? <-----Oxymoron Hall Of Fame.

4:58 AM