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Thursday, March 15, 2012

Maher, Rush, Palin and more...

"Excellence" my ass. First, a follow-up to our previous post: I can recall the 80s-era campaign to elasticize the 40-hour work week. For the most part, that campaign originated with a handful of Silicon Valley Randroids who were, at the time, considered very clever and very hip.

The buzz word, then, was "excellence."

And now? Now, America is not known for the excellence of its products or institutions. Germany is. In the words of the Sham-Wow guy: "They always make good stuff." Germany has prospered by specializing in high-end manufactured goods.

And Germany has long had a 35 hour work week.

Germans also get at least a month of paid vacay every year.

We could be living like that, if not for the libertarians.

And now for the Maher-Limbaugh-Palin thing: Everyone seems to be talking about ABC's interview with Bill Maher, who has been put on the hot seat -- or at least the uncomfortably warm seat -- as a result of the Rush Limbaugh firestorm. The Republican argument is simple and (for once) fair: If Limbaugh can be slammed for calling Sandra Fluke a prostitute, shouldn't we slam Maher for calling Sarah Palin a "cunt"?

My answer: Yes.

I like Maher, but he has made some dunderheaded moves in the past, and no doubt will again. "Dunderheaded" is hardly a sufficient word to describe what he said about Palin.

I've rarely discussed Palin on this blog. Initially, I viewed her with sympathy, if only because the first attacks on her were demonstrably low and unfair. Reporters and "oppo" researchers flew into Alaska and interviewed grudge-holders who trafficked in rumors, some of which were inane and downright vile. Those rumors were fed to an outside world which treated them as verified facts.

Exactly the same thing happened to Bill Clinton, as Joe Conason and Gene Lyons have documented in their book The Hunting of the President.

But there's a difference between Clinton and Palin. Clinton, for all his faults, is brilliant. Palin really was -- and really is -- out of her depth. Way out.

Back when the nation was fixated on Mark Fuhrman and O.J. Simpson, a lot of people forgot that it is quite possible to frame a guilty person. Something of that sort happened to Sarah Palin: Initially, the evidence against her was salted, hyperbolized, and concocted. The media framed her. Yet she was also guilty -- guilty of being genuinely unworthy of national or state office.

Is she stupid? I don't think so. There's a difference between stupidity and nescience. Picture a man who carries two pounds of potatoes in a sack which can hold no more. Now picture a man who carries two pounds of potatoes in a ten-pound bag. It all comes down to the question of unused capacity.

Sarah Palin obviously learned about the world from the alternate media universe of right-wing/Christian broadcasting. In other words, she administered her own lobotomy. Now she is characterizing the film "Game Change" as the work of pro-Obama conspirators, even though the most damning claims come from McCain staffers.

Does any of this excuse Bill Maher? No.

Here's how he justifies himself:
I let the audience be the guide. The bit I did about Palin using the word c—, one of the biggest laughs in my act, I did it all over the country, not one person ever registered disapproval, and believe me, audiences are not afraid to let you know.
So a profane punch line got laughs. Big deal. These days, I'm often a little sickened by the things that make people laugh. All film comedies are now filled with "jokes" about misplaced cum and poop because the moviemakers have convinced themselves (perhaps correctly) that any other type of humor makes an audience yawn. Well, I've lost my tolerance for that sort of thing. A cheap yok is no excuse.

Of the word "cunt," Maher says...
...it’s a word you can and lots do (all the British, for example) use for both sexes. It has a very specific meaning.
Bullshit. The Brits apply that word to males only when the intent is not just to derogate but to emasculate. "Cunt" is both sexual and dehumanizing -- always and inescapably. Comics should consider that word and "nigger" to be equally radioactive.
To compare that to Rush is ridiculous – he went after a civilian about very specific behavior, that was a lie, speaking for a party that has systematically gone after women’s rights all year, on the public airwaves. I used a rude word about a public figure who gives as good as she gets, who’s called people “terrorist” and “unAmerican.” Sarah Barracuda.
Maher is on stronger ground here. Fluke was an unknown; Palin ran for Vice President -- and later for President, albeit unofficially. Different rules apply. And it is true that Palin had no business using the label "terrorist" to describe someone who is not, strictly speaking, a terrorist. This is not a word politicians should use poetically.
Comments:
I had fun with the Moron-Americans that inhabit the Alabama Triangle of PA when the steam generators for the Three Mile Island nuclear power station were trundled thru Lancaster County. All the rubes lined the route to gawk at the enormous size of the generators and the transporters. Heads would explode when ever I pointed out that they were fabricated by those Cheese Eating Surrender Monkeys who all had Socialist health care. I would twist the knife by pointing out that we could no longer build anything similar because all the heavy manufacturing that left our shores with GOP blessings. I think the French have a shorter work week, longer vacations and earlier retirement than us too.

A PS on the Goldman-Sachs scandal, AIG no tax debacle. Most of us would call them thieves, Obama. Pelosi and Reid call them donors.
 
A better parallel to Rush's attack on the law student would be David Letterman's sick schtick about Palin's young teen daughter. Not only did he get the daughter wrong, slut-shaming an under-aged girl by mistaking her with her older sister (as if that is an excuse) but he did two nights of such jokes, even after claiming he apologized for his mix-up. Really vile suggestions that the girl hook up with older men known for sexcapades. "Progressives" that froth at the mouth about Rush excused this by claiming it was Palin's fault for "flaunting" her children. Yes, heaven forbid a daughter simply travel to NYC with her mom. Letterman should've been drummed off the air.
 
Off topic, but maybe interesting. The Supreme Court - material support for terrorist (MEK) story that Greenwald wrote about at Salon is expanding. Apparently the Treasury Department has sent out several subpoenas. MSNBC is writing about it. It seems this law is flawed but it is surprising to see the hypocrisy being called-out.
 
Joseph,

What makes you think that OJ actually physically committed the murders? Have you read Don Freed's book?
 
Bill Maher is generally misogynist which places his comments about Sarah Palin into a context of ongoing denigration of women. It makes his HBO show difficult to watch on an ongoing basis. It isn't about a specific word, but about an attitude, about hate. Camouflaging hate as humor doesn't fool those of us who are its target. Hate speech creates a climate in which it is difficult for women to claim equal treatment and succeed in male-dominated fields. There are real-world consequences to these kinds of media debates.
 
I cant speak for other brits, but I am an equal opportunities user of the c word.

My american wife has explained that she would rather I didnt use it. I do my best - it is not exactly considered a "classy" word to use back home either. However we have a substantial underclass, that makes your poor white trash look positively genteel. Among this group, the word is used a lot. Both by boys and girls. Even when I was a kid in London.

But its not really used to emasculate. In fact I dont think I have ever used that word with a woman. It is too rude, and would have very strong sexist associations. For this reason I have only ever used the word to describe a man.

"A total ****" - common usage - is often a very masculine figure. However he is a complete and utter sh*t, particularly to people who thought they were his friends or that he could be relied on.

Make no mistake, it is the rudest word we have. Its just that we use so many more rude terms than you americans.

I suggest a visit to the website for the Viz Profanisaurus - the thesaurus for the profane.

Harry
 
I believe Maher also used that term against Hillary Clinton as well
 
Harry -- has it never occurred to you that calling a man a cunt as a putdown implies that being a woman is a bad thing to be? Also, it is irrelevant whether your wife approves of the word or not. She has no authority to declare the word inoffensive on behalf of other women in the world and her opinion changes nothing about how and why the word is used. The offensive nature of the word comes from labeling a whole person using one one part of her anatomy. It chills my blood to hear the venom with which most men use the word. It is hard to hear hate directed toward you, as an individual or a member of a particular gender. You should be making a serious effort to stop using the word because it hurts people you may not wish to be hurting, including your wife (though she apparently doesn't want to say so in stronger terms).
 
Anon,

No, calling a man a cunt states very clearly that he reminds you of female genitalia, not women in general. Same as calling him a dick would state that he is not male, but a male organ. Also my wife doesn't bless my use of the word. I thought I made that clear. But what is she to do? Discipline me? I used to smoke too you know.

All language is connotation and usage. In the UK it is a common profanity, with an accepted and understood meaning. In much the same way as motherf*cker is a common profanity here. Personally I find the term more offensive than c*nt. I consider it very rude to state that someone has incestuous relations with their mother. How is that more acceptable?

As you pointed out, using it as a profane term doesnt make sense. I dont actually feel any distaste for the organ in question, so one might consider it odd that it is a profane term. But isnt the same true of every other profanity? I mean, whats so bad about dicks? shit? fags? Nignogs? Yids? To me nothing. The point is that the word is meant to denigrate the target of the insult. Don't think I dont take your broader point. I

As a good natured aside, my own personal hated word is mulatto. Have you ever used that word? Do you realise that the word is derived from the spanish word for mule? That mules are sterile hybrids? And that it comes from a period of slavery when the word was in common usage. As was quadroon and octoon. For me word mulatto is extraordinarily offensive and patronising. I always ask people to use another word when they use it with me. But you can see that I have a well reasoned argument for considering the word rude. What would be the analogous argument for the c-word? How is the word intrinsically bad? I would suggest that the word vagina is an ugly term. And comes from the latin for sheath (as in sword). Whats so wrong with the anglo-saxon term instead.

But why preach? Certain people will use words regardless of offense, if not directly because of the potential offense. Thats why I use the word c*nt. To cause offense. Thats the whole point. And similarly a proportion of the UK (about 50% and both men and women) will use the word c*nt regardless or because you find it offensive. Thats 30mn people. They could point out that the word predates you. It predates the US, and it even predates the UK. The word predates the negative connotation as well.

The point is that the negative connotation is not the word (which is a bit hard I grant you). The negative connotation is from the people and the culture. The word itself is neutral.

So I would agree that the idea that c*nts are not good is wrong. They are as good if not better than any other genital. But the word c*nt? No the word is neutral. Its people and their attitudes to c*nts that need to be changed.

Finally, one of the key points I made was that Bill Maher broke a sort of unwritten rule in the UK. The word c*nt is generally not used on or too women. So you are pretty safe from hearing the word from me or other Brits. That said, as my wife just pointed out to me, there are plenty of British women who are less scrupulous. So you might hear the word, but generally not from the mouth of a man.

In America you seem to use it differently. You dont seem to use the word on men. You use it only on women. Well thats all about America and nothing to do with the UK.

By the way, we also use the word "wanker" a lot.

I hope I have not offended. I merely wanted to clarify and share views.

Harry
 
The point is that the negative connotation is not the word (which is a bit hard I grant you). The negative connotation is from the people and the culture. The word itself is neutral.

I feel a George Carlin quote coming on...
 
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