Hardball Politics . . . and Humour

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Ana Marie Cox

Wonkette

Let’s talk about the intersection of politics and humour. A gentleman sent an email this morning about yesterday’s post, and unlike some who spew profanity, or insult my children, he asked a reasonable question:

The Wonkette piece about Roberts was obviously meant to be funny. Why did you take it to be serious?

And, he signed his name. Good on you, Gerald Barker.

I am interested, and surprised, that so many people have focused in their comments on Wonkette. Her post was an important piece of the story. But she wasn’t really my central point.

Look: The picture I posted — from the NYTimes; the Wonkette Peppermint Patty quote — was originally from the NYTimes.

The Grey Lady. All the News That’s Fit to Print. The Newspaper of Record.

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Why did I take the gay “joke” seriously? Well, because Ann Althouse first caught my attention with her observation, about the NYTimes profile of Roberts, that:

I do think the NYT piece was subtly constructed to plant this idea [that Roberts is gay].

Well, was it? I’m sure we can all agree, even my visitors from Unfogged, that the NYTimes piece was not meant to be a joke in any way. Althouse made me wonder: Did the NYT intend to telegraph the idea that Roberts is gay with the picture montage and the Peppermint Patty nugget?

Live around hardball politics long enough. . .and one wonders.

Here’s Roberts, a guy at the pinnacle of his career, reaching a height few ever attain, and our friends on the Left climb into the Way Back Machine to resurrect his role in a play in a high school drama production? I played the Easter Bunny in first grade. . . is that relevant to my life now? What’s the point? Furthermore, in the NYTimes photo montage, not a single woman appears. Not his wife; not his three sisters.

The Wonkette quote seems to have distracted most people from this question raised about the NYTimes. However, one anonymous commenter did observe:

I’ve seen these subtle NY Times photo arrangements before — it’s a game they like to play. They once had five photos whose orchestrated point were that Orlando is a Mickey Mouse town. It was really quite funny.

What the NY Times is doing now, in a supposed news report, is **simply throwing stuff** at Roberts. The point is — whatever negativity comes of it.

This is precisely the point. The NYTimes piece made me start wondering. . . add Wonkette doing her snarky little thing political analysis . . . add the Manhattan Offender riff on the Wikipedia entry . . . add comments on several other left-wing blogs that I didn’t cite. . .

But I don’t mean to completely write off Wonkette as backstory for the NYTimes piece. Let me restate: I know Wonkette is supposed to be funny. Right, right, I get it already.

Please. Wonkette’s brand of comedy is hardly higher-order humour. Not hard to “get.”

The real issue is: Does the fact that she’s “joking” mean I can’t criticize her? As Andy notes below, “we can say anything we want as long as we claim it’s a joke?”

Let’s clear something up. As Norm in the comments notes: “Wonkette is seriously humorous.” Wonkette’s schtick may be to make sexual jokes . . . but it’s in the context of politics. The top post on her site today is on Social Security. A real knee-slapper.

This is a critical point. Over at Corante — a business blog that I really like — they weighed in on this story with “Anatomy of a Rumor” and they include as one point that:

The story is leveled – details essential for understanding (such as the fact that Wonkette is a humorist) are removed.

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Wonkette Political

Blog Award

Since when is Wonkette a “humorist?” She’s no Dave Barry. And she’s no Scrappleface, either. “Wonkette”, as in “policy wonk.” Check out her Bloggie award for “best political blog.” Go to IMAO for humor.

Spare me the “it’s just a joke” defense. I took her joke seriously because humour is a weapon in hardball politics. Serious people take it seriously. [And she ranks 12th in blog traffic, averaging 59,967 hits a day. (Ann Althouse is #60 and averages 7773 visits per day.)]

Having said all of that, I haven’t even addressed the substance of the “joke.” I’ll leave that for commenter Giacomo. I thought his pithy summary was brilliant: “If it’s serious it’s sad. If it’s a joke it’s hypocritical. You pick.”

And finally. It turns out some of you are a whole lot funnier than Wonkette. You want funny? This is funny:

Patch asked: “Plaid pants??? May I see the part of the Constitution that mentions anything about clothing styles.”

David replied: I think it is in the Declaration of Independence, “life, liberty, and the pursuit of plaid pants”. And who can forget the Boston Plaid Pants Party. And Patrick Henry’s stirring “No Plaid Pants without representation” speech before the Virginia House of Burgess.

Good one, guys.

* * *

Visit Smash and commenters at Indepundit.

Read Daleen’s Place Ye Shall know the extremist by the Necco wafer clothing ….

Go play in Mamamontezz’s Mental Rumpus Room and get more reactions.

More good reads at My Vast Right Wing Conspiracy Open Weekend

Kerfuffles has more (better!) humor at What Makes Jackie Dance?

Was adorable little Dancin’ Jackie another Karl Rove sly trick?…Perhaps it was simply a “dance of joy” at seeing his father selected for the highest court in the land. Needless to say, that explanation carries little weight with the Leftists. The Moonbats, in attempts to counteract the kid’s charm which they fear may rub off onto his father, Judge John Roberts, have been busy with their Operation Looney Research. They immediately proffered a number of explanations for Dancin’ Jack’s performance, some of which are unbelievably despicable…

Kerfuffles goes on to quote a Daily Kos commenter about Judge Roberts,

“He’s probably gay. Of course, this is how ridiculous rumors get started, but extreme conservatives seem to have a lot of homosexual children… .”

Report to Mudville Gazette on Open Post and be sure to check out the giant Camel Spiders from Doc in a Box.

Linked on Outside the Beltway at Traffic Jam and be sure to visit The American Princess who has spent a number of years in the fashion business,

There are people who know very little about fashion-that-flatters, and style-with-chic, outside of what their high-level, Fashion Week, NYU amateur-designer friends, who spend wekends in the hamptons, prefer thong-showing jeans, worship prolific junk-mongers and half naked androgenous models with post-modern makeup to the timeless style of Christain Dior and CoCo Chanel, understand about the current trends. My inclination is that Robin Givhan, of the Washington Post style department is one of those people.

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35 Responses

  1. A very small step up

    On Reasoned Audacity, I see that now, the liberals are insinuating that Roberts is gay.

    Pardon me, but how droll.

    I must admit, however, that is a step above trashing him by insinuating his 4 year-old son might be gay. Really, this is almost laughab…

  2. JS says:

    First of all, the people who think there’s some left-wing conspiracy to paint Roberts as “gay” are paranoid crazies who are simply looking for controversy.

    Secondly, it’s telling that the those on the Right who are “outraged” about this non-existant conspiracy think that calling someone “gay” is an insult. Someone who thinks it’s an insult or slander to call someone gay, clearly has serious homophobic issues to deal with.

    The previous post and comment thread about this non-issue sums it all up. Not even worthy of this second post.

  3. askrom says:

    Charmaine, you promised to address the concerns raised in the previous thread, but you did not do so.

    Instead, you deflected the issue. Instead of addressing the important issue of whether the left thinks that being gay — or even being a little effete — is a bad thing, you address the inane question of whether or not Wonkette is humor. You are missing the point. The point is that, whether it’s Wonkette telling a joke about Roberts’s plaid pants or the New York Times pointing out the Peppermint Patty story, there’s nothing wrong with being gay!

    When we lefties call someone gay, it’s not an insult.

    When we point out that someone fits some of the stereotypes of being gay, it’s not a criticism.

    Can’t you get it through your head? Straight people on the left love gay people!

    The only thing we resent is when gay people or friends of gay people pretend to hate gay people in order to express solidarity with ultra-conservative homophobes. That kind of hypocrisy really ticks us off.

    You’re missing the point by a million miles. What mental barrier prevents you from seeing that being gay is not a bad thing?

  4. askrom says:

    By the way, nobody ever even remotely suggested that Roberts’s son was gay. The article compares him to John Kennedy Jr., for pete’s sake!

    Pointing out that it’s weird for a kid to be dressed in clothing styles that went out of style 50 years ago (even John John’s short pants were an anachronism in 1963) counts as an accusation of gayness? You folks are pretty darn paranoid.

  5. Wilbur says:

    The real issue is: Does the fact that she’s “joking” mean I can’t criticize her?

    Of course not. What it means, though, is you can’t treat the substance of the joke as if she were speaking seriously, unless you want to look humorless and clueless at the same time.

    As for the arrangement of photos in a NYT spread as evidence of a vast left wing conspiracy: do you do tea leaf readings as well?

  6. Gerald says:

    I fail to see how the photo montage hints that Mr. Roberts might be gay. Contrary to this post, there are 3 women in the main Harvard photo, not zero. He’s shown playing football and in a wedding photo, hardly homo-defining.

    I’ve found that most on the left have been very polite about Mr. Roberts, almost to a fault.

  7. Bob Munck says:

    As I said in the other comments, it’s not a joke about Roberts or about gays; it’s a joke about right-wingers and their homophobia (or I should say the homophobia aspect of their omniphobia).

    I don’t know if the NYT made the joke consciously or not. They do do such things occasionally, and the poor, defensive wingnuts never, never get it. However, this one is so subtle that it’s more likely to be entirely accidental, the humor equivalent of someone slipping on a discarded banana peel.

    I do love the way rightwingprof validates the joke, slips on that peel yet again. Right-wing blogs are a wonderful and never-ending fountainhead of humor.

  8. copithorne says:

    The urgency behind the need to be a victim of liberals and the farcical lengths which people are going to arrive there are jaw dropping.

    I would like to offer something, anything to help. A flower. A kiss. Some wish that conservatives might take some pleasure in their power. Or an affirmation that I am not concerned that John Roberts or his son might be gay and any concern about that is nonsensical.

    I am afraid however that there is very little I can offer because this is an expression of projection in which the disowned qualities that people are unable to come to terms with in themselves are located in “liberals.” Then what should be a struggle for one’s personal integrity becomes a drama of victimization and retribution.

  9. SteveG says:

    As several ahead of me have already observed, you can’t really analyze the substance of the joke when you don’t even understand what the joke is!

  10. Jon Stewart uses the same excuse when criticized: “it’s just a comedy show.”

    Yet, just like Wonkette, if not moreso, Stewart takes himself way too seriously as a POLITICAL commentator.

    It’s a lame excuse.

  11. Many Funerals

    News from Pennsylvania:The family of a Marine who was killed in Iraq is furious with Lt. Gov. Catherine Baker Knoll for showing up uninvited at his funeral this week, handing out her business card and then saying “our government” is…

  12. Kerfuffles says:

    No Penumbras For Wingnuts

    Isn’t there some penumbra somewhere in the U.S. Constitution that guarantees a zone of privacy to each individual? I have read the Constitution and I cannot find it, but then if it were easy to see, it wouldn’t be called a “penumbra”. People, from th…

  13. David says:

    What is most annoying about this argument is that Dr. Yoest knows it is supposed to be funny, but it isn’t. It’s just lame. But she is also correct in saying that the idea behind the “joke” is the hope that gay and Roberts get associated so as to lose social conservatives. You all know how sofisticated Billy Bob Joe Sue is and when she hears Roberts and homosexual she is gonna fire an angry letter to her senator. Yeah right, the first problem with that thesis is Billy Bob Joe Sue isn’t listening to you folk because every other sentence you write is a sneering reference to her and her family. But secondly, most of us don’t really care one way or another.

    Last year Kerry and Edwards both tried to pry the base off with Mary Cheney. It didn’t work, the base came out in droves. Outside of Quantum Mechanics, isn’t trying the same thing a second time and expecting different results sort of a form of insanity?

    Finally we have Steve G. In one sentence, self-serving, self-righteous, sneering, arogant, have I convered the bases? Why would I want to listen to you?

  14. norman land says:

    Charmaine—These Lefties are so knowing, so smug, so self-righteous, so humorless, so literal-minded. I hope you will write another provocative piece soon, so that we may hear more of their cant, their tired, witless responses, more of about their self-congratulatory “open-minded” view of life. You know Charmaine, that if only a Democrat could win an election, truth, beauty and light would return to the world and we could all be more cooperative and happy again.

  15. askrom says:

    the first problem with that thesis is Billy Bob Joe Sue isn’t listening to you folk because every other sentence you write is a sneering reference to her and her family. But secondly, most of us don’t really care one way or another.

    The third problem with the thesis is that nobody on the left actually beleives it. It’s a fear that exists entirely within the minds of the right, paranoid about the behavior of their increasingly irrational rightmost wing, uncomfortable about the decades of shameless pandering you’ve had to make in order to keep them loyal to your party.

    The fourth problem with this thesis is the condescending manner you use to characterize your own party’s rightmost base as “Billy Bob Joe Sue”.

    So: You fear your party’s right wing because you think they will angrily cast aside perfectly good candidates for what you think are minor things like being gay-tolerant. And you think of them as stereotypical hillbillys. Maybe, just maybe, ya’ll are strange bedfellows? Maybe the “big tent” isn’t big enough for those bigots and you should kick them out yourselves.

  16. John Protevi says:

    Ah, if we on the left could only rise to the heights of wit displayed by Norman Land: “You know Charmaine, that if only a Democrat could win an election, truth, beauty and light would return to the world and we could all be more cooperative and happy again.”

  17. RD says:

    Charmaine: After reading several “what-are-you-so-worried-about” comments from posters – some of which seemed plausible – I reread the following line:

    Here’s Roberts, a guy at the pinnacle of his career, reaching a height few ever attain, and our friends on the Left climb into the Way Back Machine to resurrect his role in a play in a high school drama production? I played the Easter Bunny in first grade. . . is that relevant to my life now? What’s the point?

    Gotcha.

    Or has something like this ever been covered so prominently during the initial, “getting-to-know-you” phase of an extended news bio? (AFAIK they haven’t quite progressed to the “dirt-smearing” phase YET.)

    Or else I’d like to know how some of your posters explain it away: “Charmaine, your analogy’s absurd! High school drama’s so much more relevant artistically than 1st grade…” “Haven’t you heard? High school and amateur drama are the hot new personal-interest topics since reality TV and celebrity home videos hit so big…” “I just loved the pants he was wearing in that one pic…” Or maybe: “The guy’s personal life is such a mystery that there’s nothing else to write about, so whadidja expect?”

    Anyhow: Why was precious media bandwidth sacrificed to bring us this information, at the expense of good news from the economy or the GWOT? (So early and so prominently?) At the very least I suspect someone in the press believes it holds important clues to John Roberts’ personality… and thinks we ought to hold the same opinion.

  18. oskar says:

    I still don’t get your fixation on the NYT conspiracy. The article talks about Roberts in superlatives, yet you have to concentrate on the tiniest questionable bits. Like the Patty thing.

    Consider this: here are the things they say about Roberts in the middle of page 2:

    * an academic star

    * played Peppermint Patty

    * impressed almost everyone

    * high school math teacher says “was a person who was destined to do big things”

    Now, I personally would guess that NYT intended to prove he is a smart guy, but your “Gay Warning System” suddenly flashes red on the Peppermint Patty nugget! Why the paranoia?

    That’s sooo missing the point like … I don’t know … reading the article’s title as “Court Nominee’s Life Is Rooted in Gayness and Respect for Gays”.

  19. Attacking John Roberts’ Children

    Speaking of respect and children, check out the observations that Danny Carlton makes about the press attacks on John Roberts’ kids.

    Remember when class meant the outward display of inner character? And that display wasn’t about clothes, …

  20. Jimmy says:

    What Little Miss Innocent experienced was fear. She professes that such things shouldn’t matter, but she knows there are people for whom it does. Is the problem that Charmaine is in the same big tent with these people or that somebody points out who all are in the big tent? Why do you, like Peter, deny these people? It’s as if you are embarrassed or feel shame for sharing an affinity with them. Then you shift all of that onto someone else. How is this not scapegoating?

  21. Sues says:

    Ahhh, yes. The liberal gay trap.

    First they “joke” about John Roberts, President Bush, Karl Rove, Ken Mehlman, etc…etc.. being gay. They make crude “jokes” and OPENLY say that it should peel off some of the Right Wing Conservative Christians from the Republicans. The theory being that they’ll be so disgusted that they won’t vote and will withdraw their support for Republicans.

    Then when conservatives don’t turn on the Republican that they have smeared as being “gay” some liberals are confused, and can’t figure out why. After all they KNOW that all conservatives are homophobic.

    (I and other conservatives read DU, Kos and other liberal blogs. Don’t try telling me that what I’m saying isn’t true because you would be lying.)

    A word to liberals: Just because many conservatives, including myself, do not agree with gay sexual behavior, and gay marriage does not mean that we bash the person. It is an opinion on a lifestyle, not a condemnation of a person. Liberals have contorted the definition of homophobia to mean anyone who does not agree with 100% of the gay agenda.

    In reality though many liberals aren’t concerned about gays and they know that most conservatives aren’t homophobic, it’s just that many liberals are invested in accusing conservatives of homophobia to try to keep their voting block from defecting to the Republicans.

    And if all else fails, then liberals laugh “ha, ha, ha. It’s all a joke. Being gay isn’t an insult.”

    First of all the intent is to demean and deride the individual, and attempt to peel off conservative Christians. It is not a joke. It’s simply the way the left attempts to deflect attention when they are confronted with this behavior. Republicans discuss traditional family values and gay marriage, liberals attack the individual. It’s sick.

    And then they play their final card,”If you think it’s an insult to call someone gay then you have some serious homophobic issues to deal with.” So all of a sudden it’s not the liberals who are expressing homophobic bigoted rhetoric, it’s the conservative that is homophobic.

    I’m just sure if I say, “XYX is black and I know that’s why she’s lazy. Ha ha ha, I’m only joking. Can’t you take a joke?”, both conservatives and liberals will call me a racist bigot. Well turn it around. Liberals who say that someone is gay without any evidence, and then “joke” about it is expressing homophobia.

    You don’t fool us, and it is disgusting behavior that gives liberals a bad name.

  22. RD says:

    Consider this: here are the things they say about Roberts in the middle of page 2:

    * an academic star

    * played Peppermint Patty

    * impressed almost everyone

    * high school math teacher says “was a person who was destined to do big things”

    Now, I personally would guess that NYT intended to prove he is a smart guy, but your “Gay Warning System” suddenly flashes red on the Peppermint Patty nugget! Why the paranoia?

    Not the “Gay Warning System” — the “Dubious Detail from Left Field” warning system. You’re missing the point that printing a detail like this in [what is ostensibly] news coverage is quite rare to begin with, no matter how casual the NYT wants it to appear. So a compelling motive is implied by default. Pointing that out is not paranoia, it’s accountability.

    Not that we can’t have fun with it tho 🙂 The speculation about “gay”-whispering is just a guess as to why the NYT would make such an unprecedented off-the-wall disclosure and then insist, like you, that the disclosure is insignificant: the disclosure itself is the warning. Like the proverbial dog that doesn’t bark, the NYT brings it up casually as if it’s “obviously” in context with their (and our) overall discussion of Roberts – whether qualifications or personal interest – yet when challenged deny that it’s important to either one! Huh? So why bring it up then? Indeed, why break precedent to do it?

    That’s what arouses our curiosity: it’s the fact that doesn’t fit. Unlike the other three bullets on your list, this factoid doesn’t support (or refute) the contention that Roberts was “a smart guy” or destined to succeed in his career. It’s a clear non-sequitur to the others. Unlike the others it doesn’t speak to his grace, honor and/or potential as a justice. It’s not remotely parallel. Yet it’s in the same list with the others. [Ding.]

    Nor do I think it’s a rank coincidence that the NYT – deliberately – identifies a statistically rare event: a male dressing up as a female and performing in public. AFAIK that’s still quite rare, even among the readership of the NYT. It just not something many of us do; in adult life it happens rarely outside of transgender subculture or the entertainment industry. So seeing it in print indicates *nothing* to you (either about the subject or the observer)? [Ding. Ding.]

    And given how we’re told in the same breath how he impressed almost everyone in school with his achievements, wouldn’t we naturally infer that this characterization should also apply to his role as Peppermint Patty? [Ding! Ding! Ding!] (Just kidding 😉 )

    (Okay, I admit Peppermint’s a tom-boy & a bruiser…not quite the same stretch as playing Sally is it?)

  23. RD says:

    Sorry for the HTML error – clearly everything up until “Why the paranoia?” is quoted from oskar above.

  24. RD says:

    Now I read this: I wish someone would verify this. Peppermint Patty isn’t *in* “You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown”. The earlier character named Patty is. Did they change it for his high school, or is the person who wrote this article for the NYT just too young to remember Patty?

    By George I think they’re right! Patty was no tom-boy, no bruiser…so I guess Roberts had to deliver the goods after all.

  25. Wizbang says:

    Notes From Around The Blogoshpere

    Hugh Hewitt is finally using blogging software to author his site which means, among other things, that RSS/Atom feeds are now available. Venomous Kate is back and blogging up a storm. Liberal blogger Duncan Black, aka Atrios, is holding a…

  26. askrom says:

    He went to an all-boys school, like many American males (and probably a disproportionatly large number of New York Times staff members and readers). Plays in all-boys schools require the boys to play girls sometimes. Hazing rituals at most fraternities (including Bush & Kerry’s Skull and Bones club) require boys to dress up like girls. It is, to boys-only cultures, a rite of passage and perfectly freaking normal.

    Basically what I am saying is that pointing out that he played Patty (Peppermint or not) isn’t even, by even the remotest stretch, a suggestion of gayness any more than saying he was in a fraternity is. It says he’s cool enough to be one of the few guys in the Drama club with the guts to play a girl – most guys can’t handle it, and apparently most of the readers of this blog can’t handle it either.

  27. askrom says:

    I’m just sure if I say, “XYX is black and I know that’s why she’s lazy. Ha ha ha, I’m only joking. Can’t you take a joke?”, both conservatives and liberals will call me a racist bigot. Well turn it around. Liberals who say that someone is gay without any evidence, and then “joke” about it is expressing homophobia.

    Calling someone “lazy” is an insult, and to associate laziness with black people is disgusting and bigoted.

    But where did anyone associate anything insulting about gay people? Where did anyone use a word like “lazy”? Nowhere! Except in your head, where the word “gay” is an insult. What you really really don’t get is that the word “gay” is not an insult, any more than “black” is. Bill Clinton was often called by liberals “the first black President”. If you hate black people, then you’d see that as an insult. But if you like black people, calling a white guy “black” is a kind of compliment, saying that he basically understood the concerns of black Americans and that he would work on behalf of them (he wasn’t called the “lazy black President”). Same goes for Judge Roberts: suggesting that he is gay (which, by the way, the NYT and WP did NOT do, only Wonkette did) is like calling Clinton the black President: it is intended to suggest that he might be the kind of man who doesn’t wake up everyday wasting his time thinking about how afraid he is that someone might think he’s gay, or about gay people are a major threat to the USA.

    Anyway, won’t any of you right-wingers stand up and say “It’s okay for a person to be gay”? Every one of the comments here criticizing the NYT, WP, Wonkette has shown really strong evidence that the poster has a deep-seeded distate for gay people.

    I kinda miss the old days when the ultra-right would simply and honestly say “we hate gays” instead of pretending that they are outraged by anti-gay bigotry. You guys don’t care one bit about anti-gay bigotry, do you?

  28. charmaine says:

    suggesting that he is gay . .. is like calling Clinton the black President: it is intended to suggest that he might be the kind of man who doesn’t wake up everyday wasting his time thinking about how afraid he is that someone might think he’s gay, or about gay people are a major threat to the USA.

    Askrom (and JS): here’s where we disagree. I don’t think the whispers/jokes about Roberts can be analogized to “Clinton the black POTUS.” They weren’t friendly, accepting jokes. They were mocking jokes.

    I’ll repeat my point. It wasn’t that insinuating that he was gay was “bad” — my concern was highlighting it as a political strategy. See above where I say very clearly: we don’t care and you think we do. For example: Santorum’s staffer who is gay — still has his job and the Senator’s support.

    For example, see today’s post on Howard Dean. It’s all about hardball politics.

  29. Tin Man says:

    Have you read the trove of comments on this post, Charmaine? It’s not about politics at all. You’re seeing something that’s just not there. They were photographs. That’s all. It’s things like this that give political bloggers a bad time. There’s not a conspiracy or a strategy under every rock, okay? Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.

  30. askrom says:

    Charmaine, I understand your point: You are saying that liberals are suggesting Roberts is gay in order to make some bigots in the GOP drop their support for him.

    We say your theory is delusional because (a) we cannot imagine that frivolous comments by Wonkette or the WP Style section constitute a “whisper campaign”, and (b) we cannot imagine that any gay-loving Democrat would incite anti-gay hatred in order to accomplish our gay-loving goals.

    What you don’t understand is that in gay-tolerant circles, it’s okay to talk about sexual preferences without any judgementalism at all. We joked about Kerry’s pink ties and we called Edwards gay all the time during the campaign. We don’t think that there’s anything wrong with being gay, so joking that someone might be gay would never seem like a insult to us.

    But, of course, you are saying that the ‘rumors’ are targeted at what liberals think are bigots within the GOP. You say it’s not going to work, yet you don’t claim that the GOP doesn’t have anti-gay bigots to be affected. You say “we don’t care”, but who is the “we”? The GOP is a big tent, and it includes:

    1) People who think it’s just fine for anyone to be openly gay and who stand up and courageously denounce anti-gay bigotry.

    2) People who are anti-gay bigots.

    3) People who are gay-tolerant but who aren’t willing to denounce anti-gay bigotry.

    You have repeatedly failed to say that (1) you think it’s just fine for anyone to be openly gay, so I can only assume that either (2) you are bigoted against gay people, or that (3) you are simply trying to avoid alienating those who are bigoted against gay people (who may constitute a large number of your readers).

    To avoid bing a jerk and flat-out calling you a bigot, I will sincerely assume that you are simply in the latter group – that you are gay-tolerant but that you don’t want to say so explicitly for fear of alienating others in your political orbit.

    Your party’s tolerance of anti-gay bigotry must end. That is the liberal agenda. You think we’re trying to split your party by rousing the hatred of the anti-gay bigots in the GOP. But poking fun at Robert’s pants isn’t going to help in that strategy. It’s insane to rouse anti-gay hatred in order to defeat anti-gay hatred. You’re dead wrong about that. But in a larger sense you are correct: the left does want to fracture the GOP. We want Republicans who are gay-tolerant to stop being bigot-tolerant too. We want you to cast the bigots out of the party yourselves. Why? In part because we want Republicans who are sick of their party’s allegience to bigots to leave the party and come to the Democrats. But mostly because we want to wipe out anti-gay bigotry. That is our ideology.

    Another thing you don’t understand is that we think that the GOP has millions of decent, gay-tolerant people within it who are, against their better selves, handcuffed to anti-gay ideologies.

    Rick Santorum’s gay staffer isn’t the only gay person in the Republican party. There are many gay people at the very highest levels of the GOP party leadership. These are the very people who need to take the lead in changing their party’s direction. It pains us immensely to see gay-tolerant straight people, and even gay people like Mary Cheney or Santorum’s staffer, standing shoulder to shoulder with anti-gay bigots or shamelessly pandering to anti-gay voters. It’s time to kiss the bigots goodbye, Charmaine. They were useful to you in the past in the same way that anti-black bigots were useful to Democrats in the middle of the last century, but don’t you think your party can win without them?

    Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe the majority of the GOP is bigoted. If that’s the case, the your theory would make a lot more sense. How would you characterize your party’s view on gay people? How would you characterize your own views on gay people? Would you say that anti-gay bigots are a valuable and important part of the GOP? If not, will you clearly and loudly denounce anti-gay bigotry?

    -Cf

  31. RD says:

    askrom: On the one hand you say that dressing up like a girl is “perfectly freaking normal…a rite of passage”, yet on the other hand you suggest that Roberts was one of the few “with the guts to play a girl – most guys can’t handle it.” You’re trying to have it both ways. Just like the Times (though you make different points). In their case, a rare event — but ostensibly an “insignificant” one — is specifically recognized by the Times in their column; yet when they are quizzed about it, it’s dismissed as insignificant and therefore unworthy of specific recognition. Huh? That’s a contradiction — and one that rightly arouses suspicion. You may feel their act was not deliberately motivated (perhaps it was simply random? capricious? whimsical? accidental even?) but a lot of intelligent people feel differently.

    Why? Because the New York Times does not practice random, capricious, whimsical, or accidental journalism on one of their most important ledes. Because Wonkette’s joking about the issue just confirms that such types of wisecracks and embarrassing commentary are a direct and inevitable result of their bringing it up, however “casually”. By the way, as Charmaine has tried to tell you repeatedly by now (but you still don’t seem to hear), THAT’s what’s so objectionable here — not Wonkette’s actual comments per se. The point is, wisecracks like hers are predictable when the NYT publicizes a Republican nominee’s transgender curriculum vitae, however “nonchalantly”. And it’s foolish to believe — and disingenuous to propagate — the notion that the Times had no clue this was likely to happen.

    Your proposition that the Times’ “real motive” in bringing this up is to show that that Roberts had the “guts” to play a girl is just not supported by their narrative. Reread the article. (Look at the Roberts pics while you’re at it.) Reread Wonkette. Realize how inevitable the two are when taken together. (“Oh that’s just right-wing paranoia!” Yeah right.)

    I have no disagreements with your point that it’s okay (and not specifically a “gay” indicator) to dress up as the opposite sex & perform on stage. Cool by me – do whatever inspires your heterosexual libido. By the same token, however, do you disagree with OUR point that such disclosures lead to embarrassing snickers by the gossip-sphere? (Even if the gossip-mongers are, like you suggest, unfairly misinterpreting the evidence by doing so?) Or that the NYT disclosed this information intentionally, in unprecedented fashion, while agreeing there was scant journalistic value in doing so in the first place?

    If not, then we’re cool. But if you continue to argue that their disclosure has no causality or motive, then I think it’s YOU who – like the New York Times – “can’t handle it either.”

    BTW: Just in case I haven’t made the point loudly enough, Wonkette is NOT the source of the objection. It’s the New York Times. Wonkette’s joking merely confirms that comments like hers are a predictable (and completely excusable, according to you!!!) result of the Times’ decision to include this “irrelevant” morsel. Irrelevant indeed. Irrelevant to everything except the intent to generate gossip.

    –RD

    P.S. You’re talking to someone who lives inside the “gay-tolerant circle”. That’s why the following argument is so bizarre to me:

    We say your theory is delusional because … (b) we cannot imagine that any gay-loving Democrat would incite anti-gay hatred in order to accomplish our gay-loving goals.

    Huh? You realize, don’t you, that outing someone (whether gay, bald or liberal) does not “incite anti-gay/anti-bald/anti-liberal hatred”, it does the exact opposite. It incites ridicule for the PERSON as being a hypocrite of some kind. Thereby it ENHANCES the gay/bald/liberal agenda. So I don’t think the [alleged] snickering campaign against Roberts will dispirit any gay/bald/liberal-loving Democrats (or their goals) any time soon. (Do you?? Seriously?)

  32. RD says:

    [askrom] He went to an all-boys school, like many American males

    What percentage of American males is “many”? When I imply “rare” I’m obviously talking about percentages. I don’t know what you’re talking about. My guess is, the number is well under 10% of the overall population.

    Plays in all-boys schools require the boys to play girls sometimes.

    Here’s what I’ve heard: sometimes boys DON’T have to play girls’ parts because an affiliated girls’ school will co-produce the play; other times, male teachers will volunteer for some of the girls’ parts (!) because not enough boys come forward. (I guess those boys just don’t have the “guts” to act “perfectly freaking normal” like you say.) So an already small # can be winnowed down further, to potentially zero on occasion. In any case, out of hundreds or >1000 students, we’re talking about a FEW per school, per year, at most. That’s what I described earlier as a “statistically rare” event. (One that we maintain the NYT brought up on purpose, for reasons we’re exploring at our own leisure on this thread.)

    In adult life (the main subject, after all, of the NYT piece), this act is rarer still, where it’s relegated to those with either *professional* or *lifestyle* ambitions (like actors, drag queens and the like). So why bring this up at all? Because the storyline indulged by the NYT is how Roberts’ early life predicts his current potential as a middle-aged adult. And the judgment being made is his PROFESSIONAL potential and his LIFESTYLE / personal choices — NOT his “artistic” potential. Had artistic merit been the context of the article (or for that matter, his “courage” to take a female role in a play), I’d be on the same page with you. But it’s not. As long as professional and lifestyle choices are the issue, we will continue to wonder why the NYT brought this up out of context and precedent, especially when a man in drag is a very powerful – ADULT – professional and lifestyle stereotype — whether he’s gay OR straight.

    (and probably a disproportionatly large number of New York Times staff members and readers).

    What, Times staff members & New Yorkers are Establishment types? Naw. But you raise a possibility: that a disproportionately large number of New York times newsmakers, political high officials and elite achievers ARE among those that went to all-boys’ schools.

    That’s important because, if it’s true, then – as a matter of strict probability – they’re more likely to have had this same opportunity to “look cool” and “show guts” as Roberts. And given (1) your insistence that playing a woman on stage is “perfectly freaking normal”, (2) your correct observation that some of these newsmakers (or their classmates) have surely done it, and (3) the left crowd’s insistence that there’s nothing extraordinary about the NYT disclosing Roberts’ performance, then WHERE ARE THE “MANY” OTHER EXAMPLES of transgender drama that we SHOULD have read about in the New York Times’ reportages by now, but HAVEN’T??

    (I guess Richard Clarke, Steven Breyer and Richard Holbrook took Model U.N. instead of drama…or perhaps they managed to weasel out of the “cool” parts that took “guts” to play. Eh?)

    Hazing rituals at most fraternities (including Bush & Kerry’s Skull and Bones club) require boys to dress up like girls.

    C’mon – goofing around doesn’t count. That’s not an “achievement” (of the kind slipped into the “achievements” column in a NYT piece on someone’s “qualifications”). The “achievement” highlighted in the NYT piece is the act of volunteering, studying, and then dressing and acting the part of a female in a public performance. One is more commonplace like you suggest; the other is much, much rarer.

    It is, to boys-only cultures, a rite of passage and perfectly freaking normal.

    Yet still exceedingly rare in the overall population, if for no other reason than simple demographics (as I’ve already pointed out).

    Basically what I am saying is that pointing out that he played Patty (Peppermint or not) isn’t even, by even the remotest stretch, a suggestion of gayness

    It’s obvious to those of us following the story that it’s not *necessary* for the NYT to “suggest that he’s gay.” Even remotely. Why would they? But realize that mentioning a powerful transgender stereotype – however “nonchalantly” – will invariably generate snickers and snide gossipy comments like those from Wonkette. (And we ARE arguing that the Times knew this would happen, and did it anyway, on purpose.) Even folks like Wonkette who make jokes about his gay “behavior” based on gratuitous disclosures by the NYT won’t necessarily cross the line into serious advocacy of the position that he’s “gay”. Why would they? The embarrassment is still effected, and people will still wonder whether or not he’s gay, whether you think that’s justified or not. (Yes, even Democrats.)

    Those of us in my position still insist that the Patty disclosure doesn’t fit the Roberts story…and so far you haven’t said anything to convince anyone that it does. So what’s YOUR rationale?

    The photos are another matter. Those familiar with the NYT’s photo editing style have had quite a bit to say on this topic. Not that you’ve taken any of it to heart. Even I can see the photos are quite foppish (whether his pants are plaid, paisley or corduroy). But realize also, the larger question doesn’t pivot around the photos. It’s still a mystery as to why the NYT shoehorned Roberts’ non-sequitrous transgender curricula vitae into a story about his judicial fitness. No one in your camp has come forward to offer a plausible explanation. What’s yours? Is it an act of random, capricious, whimsical, or accidental journalism?

    It says he’s cool enough to be one of the few guys in the Drama club with the guts to play a girl

    Oh yeah, I forgot. It’s good Wonkette sees it your way too. ;-/

    BTW: Why does it require guts? (I’m not disagreeing with you, I’m just wondering why you think this might be true.) Could it be that having people know you played a girl might be just a little bit embarrassing because it leads to unwarranted gossip and speculation?

  33. askrom says:

    RD, gimme a break. “Many” American boys go to all boys schools. “Many” American boys play little league baseball. “Many” American boys are in the boy scouts. Are any of these “high” percentages? Not by a long shot. Are they normal? Yes.

    (It’s revealing that to a conservative you have to have a large percentage to constitute a “many” — or even “normal”, I guess. On the left, we know that there are many “manys”.)

    And listen, dressing up as a female in a play at an all-boys school is hardly “transgender”. Do you realize that YOU are the one going out of your way, literally bending over backwards, to try to paint Roberts as some kind of transgender freak? You aren’t even arguing that one could misconstrue the reports about Roberts — you are in fact arguing that the facts about him are themselves damning. Or are you saying that the stories and photos are fakes? Or are you mad because you were happier when you were ignorant, before you found out that Roberts is, apparently in your eyes, a transgender freak?

    As far as justifying the Times’s decisions to include the plaid pants and peppermint patty stuff: Sure, there might have been a little bit of intent to solicit some giggles from among their gay-tolerant readership. But I can’t for the life of me see how that wasn’t done in good fun. There’s nothing mean spirited about it. Only a homophobe would see it that way, frankly. I don’t see how it’s any different than mentioning, say, Bush’s activities as a cheerleader.

    I’ll admit, though, it is funny watching right-wingers who pretend that they’re not anti-gay squirming around to claim that talking about their candidate’s documented effete behavior is some kind of a bloody slander. You think the left is nasty? Wait until you see what your own people are going to do with drag-prone Rudy Giuliani in the 2008 primaries. It’ll make the GOP anti-McCain race-baiting in the 2000 primary look positively quaint.

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