Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Folk Devils

The normally-discerning 3QD links to the latest from the ever-ridiculous Amanda Marcotte on the topic that even a hotline psychic could have accurately predicted she'd be writing about:

Well, I think I have a theory, and yes, it’s sexism.

Now, attentive readers — and you all are attentive, aren't you? You're not like the stupid readers that NPR pranked on April Fool's Day who comment on articles they haven't read, are you? — will have noticed that the above quotation is nowhere to be found in the linked article. Yes, I confess, I pulled the ol' switcheroo on you. That's actually from a post she wrote last winter where, once again, astonishing, I know, in the neverending Rorschach test that we call life, Amanda saw sexism where others only saw meaningless ink. Anyway, the point is, that blurb is pretty much the Platonic Ideal of her writing, the sine qua non, a journeyman free agent that could sign a contract to appear in just about any one of her posts and articles. She is to blogging what Clayton Homes is to housing construction — a supplier of easily-transported, quickly-assembled, prefabricated building templates whose slipshod construction doesn't take long to reveal itself. I mean, she's barely had time to cash the check for this job, but look at the drywall already cracking in this section:

But the internet and the PUA community have created a self-haven for young men engaged in this self-pitying discourse, encouraging them to cultivate that chip on their shoulders, wallowing in misogynist accusations that women en masse are failing them by not giving up the sex these ostensibly unappreciated men believe they deserve. With so many men spending so much time egging each other on, and trying to top each other when it comes to blaming women for their own pitiful lives—to the point of advocating for the denial of basic rights to women—it’s little surprise that one of them would finally work up the nerve to get his “revenge” for all these imagined slights.

When Dimebag Darrell was murdered on stage by a gunman a decade ago, an opportunistic hack could have similarly described it as an inevitable result of the nebulous "culture" of angst, aggression and macho violence that heavy metal is popularly associated with, or even singled out the unfortunate comments made by Philip Anselmo in particular shortly before the shooting. It's "little surprise" that one of those moshing meatheads would finally decide to bring a gun into the pit, isn't it? Likewise, we're all familiar with earlier attempts to blame the suicides of depressed and/or drug-addled adolescents on particular songs by Ozzy Osbourne or Judas Priest. It's "little surprise" that impressionable, disturbed youths would be pushed over the edge by an emotionally manipulative power ballad glorifying death or suicide, isn't it? But the, uh, surprising fact remains that such extreme occurrences are exceedingly rare. Millions of fans manage to find healthy catharsis within the scene without taking things to their supposed logical conclusions, which should lead one to wonder if the logic isn't missing something, perhaps.

No, of course that analogy is not to say that misogyny doesn't exist, or that you can't find valid examples of men saying awful, offensive things about women (especially if you seek them out). It's simply a reminder that an unsympathetic outsider's perspective can easily morph into a good old-fashioned moral panic, which is increasingly what all this hysterical focus on online misogyny is coming to resemble.

Marcotte would like to have it both ways — the rare example of an Elliot Rodger is proof of how inevitably dangerous her ideological opponents are and how we live in a culture that at least passively endorses misogynist ideals, but the fact that most maladjusted sexless adolescents will never be guilty of anything worse than stupidity or boorishness, or the fact that many men somehow manage to altogether resist the omnipresent siren song urging them to treat women as inferior objects will, of course, not count as disproof; the definition of misogyny will simply become more elastic in order to remain relevant. She's a seasoned veteran at this sort of thing, though. Several years ago, if you remember, the progressive blogosphere was going apeshit over how the murder of Bill Sparkman, the Kentucky census worker found hanged with the word "Fed" written on his chest, was so obviously the inevitable result of violent, anti-government Teabagger rhetoric. When it turned out a couple months later that he had committed suicide while trying to make it look like a homicide, lesser mortals would have slunk away in shame to contemplate the perils of instapunditry, to think twice about publicly jumping to preordained conclusions based on incomplete breaking news reports. Not our heroine, though. No, in fact, it was still the Teabaggers' fault for making us believe that they were even capable of such an act in the first place. If it should somehow turn out that there's more to Elliot Rodger's rampage than first met the eye, you can safely bet the house that misogyny will be to blame for that, too.