Ugly Identity Politics and Ugly Language

Inspired by a lovely photo of motherly affection and play, Samantha Bee diminished Ivanka Trump with ugly remarks. Such simplification comes from an ugly perspective, characteristic of the Hollywood that applauded Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, and Roman Polanski, its politics represented by Ted Kennedy and Bill Clinton. Power is all – in boardroom, bedroom, Congress. Bee’s offensive comments were the quintessential vision of “progressives” and post-modernism – power the essence of any relationship, category the essence of identity.

Raymond, in Gramscian Damage notes that “in the 1930s members . . . got instructions from Moscow to promote non-representational art so that the US’s public spaces would become arid and ugly.” Ugliness begets nihilism begets decline begets suicide. Beautiful (productive, generous, transcendent) ideas are seldom couched in ugly words. The beauty of the individual – a portrait domestic or heroic – is replaced by spiritless representations of the group – the “worker,” “farmer.” Few visions are less likely to produce felicity than seeing familial, parental, spousal relationships in terms of power and “category.” (Nor ones more likely to destroy these bonds.)

Bee’s choice of noun has been the focus of complaint. I’m generally a bit foul-mouthed (more so than my husband) but I don’t believe I have, literally, ever used that word. I noticed others said that and innocents (my age) needed definitions. Its more clinical cousin – vagina – was also a quiet (if not vulgar) word until the Vagina Monologues and the Vagina March. Such exposure was meant to dispel the mystery of women’s sexuality. Maybe it worked. While the less formal word gave Bee a larger audience, she made it less powerful. And our language a little uglier.

The word’s ugliness derives from what it does – carving away personhood to a part. Pinker’s subtitle to The Stuff of Thought is “window into human nature.” He sees categories that seem to mean the same but are hugely different: the sex act is described in many ways, but they can generally be divided into the concept of (1) to, e.g., screw you and (2) with, e.g., sleeping together. “To” implies a power differential. Bee sums up a particular woman’s essence with a 4-letter term to which something can be done; hers is not a sense of sexuality that implies mutuality, in which a good deal more than organs are joined. Not surprisingly, the post-modernist obsession with power leads Scaachi Koul to defend Bee’s position, narrowing the relationship to categories and power differential; Bee becomes victim and Ivanka feckless oppressor.

What followed was also appalling. Apparently attractive woman as sex object limits the perspective of the Samantha Bee and Bill Mahr persuasion. Most of us assume women are partners and opponents, thinking and intuitive, active on the stage of life, not just static objects acted upon. And we certainly see mothers and daughters and sisters as major roles. Of course, Jordan Peterson is right about the power of sexual desire; it is dangerous to ignore as a factor in human interactions. But it is often not a large factor. And familial, parental love is at least as central to an understanding of others. Bee deprecates it even as her argument (somewhat faulty as it turned out) berated them for the separation of families. Bee’s meme (unlike Peterson’s realistic remarks) is degrading. Of course, this is satire, but the humor (minimal at best) arises from the shock of positing that these “others” break the universal taboo of incest. Shock is not humor. But by then we realize we are playing her game when we react. It is what it is and she what she is.

In his campaign, Trump shocked. But the left has been playing with mud for decades and the amount thrown on Bush and Romney, Palin and McCain made me (and I suspect others) eventually not just cut Trump slack but cheer when he fought back. Well, what did you expect? If he coarsened the public square, it was one already knee deep in mud.

If your context for speeches is great leaders, certainly next to the beauty and depth of Washington, of Lincoln, of Churchill, he seems small. We see his words as (often) the first response of someone who can be pugnacious, fights hard, is often sympathetic, feels traditional emotions strongly, and sees his role as motivator. Too often self-referential, too full of superlatives; the wall will be great, grand, big, beautiful; MS-13 is made up of animals. But we know what he means. His transparency means we don’t expect precision but we can see what emotion impels both action and words. (The left says he lies, the right says he meets campaign promises – there is lying and then there’s lying.) He’s no Lincoln, has neither Lincoln’s humility or eloquence.

We might remember, though, this is a nation that barely respects Washington and in which the days devoted to Washington and Lincoln have fallen off the calendar. This is a world of simple, repetitive lyrics – in church as well as the top 40. We send messages in a shorthand that reduces our vocabularies to fit the aim of Big Brother rather than Churchill. Trump can reach higher but I don’t see how his opponents can reach any lower.

20 thoughts on “Ugly Identity Politics and Ugly Language”

  1. I was a supporter but not very confident of Trump’s ability to cut through the leftist fog.

    I was interested in 2015, but still had doubts.

    Today the Republican Party has two choices before it: It can either reform itself, or fracture and surrender to the Troll Party.

    I think that states it succinctly. I remember a whole segment of the Republican Party that was horrified by the prospect of Ronald Reagan. Maybe Mr Wilson was one or maybe he is too young to remember. Wilson certainly finds an eager audience on the left.

    In an interview with MSNBC’s Chris Hayes, Wilson conceded that “Trump is still a very powerful force right now” because he appeals to part of the of the conservative base that Wilson said was activated by his “nativist” message. Wilson insisted that the donor class “can’t just sit back on the sidelines and say, ‘oh well, don’t worry, this will all work itself out.’”
    “They’re still going to have to go out and put a bullet in Donald Trump,” Wilson said. “And that’s a fact.”

    Who are Mr Wilson’s clients ? Well, he apparently worked for Rick Perry. There was a big success.

    Wilson sits on the sidelines at MSNBC while history is made.

    The attempted coup was interesting, and continues to this day.

    The rage by the left will probably undo them as it looks more and more like Democrats are going to have a hard time this fall.

    2018 Generic Congressional Vote Reuters/Ipsos Democrats 39, Republicans 37 Democrats +2

    Generally, Democrats need to be at least +5 to win a number of seats. In 2006, they were +10.

  2. “If he coarsened the public square, it was one already knee deep in mud”
    Yep. Trump only had a chance because the left is so vile, and has been for decades, and the GOP base was finally ready for someone who wasn’t going to follow the Marquess of Queensberry Rules in a pit fight.

  3. In his campaign, Trump shocked. But the left has been playing with mud for decades and the amount thrown on Bush and Romney, Palin and McCain made me (and I suspect others) eventually not just cut Trump slack but cheer when he fought back. Well, what did you expect? If he coarsened the public square, it was one already knee deep in mud.

    Quite so. Trump wasn’t my first choice, but when I observed that those who attacked Trump were also my enemies, and unlike previous Republican Presidential candidates and Presidents, he fought back, I concluded I would be glad to cast my vote for him.

    Samantha Bee is far from the only female Democrat who has recently shown that “Extremism in the vilification of Republicans is no vice.” There was the city council woman from the posh Houston suburb of University Place who screamed “Grab them by the pussy” at teenage girls wearing MAGA caps. In the last month I read of a female faculty member who put “Republicans are assholes” on her office door. (Though I haven’t been able to locate it. One problem is that RAA is ubiquitous on the web.)

    Perhaps these women should be subjected to have their vulgarities shouted back at them. In volume and for at least 5 minutes.

  4. It isn’t necessary to return the vulgarities. Some of us were wondering if he could do it.

    Now, it seems that he can and the results are beginning to appear.

    Right now, the rage filled Democrats are creating the video ads for the fall election.

    Insty said. “All the Democrats have to do is not act crazy before the election and they can’t even do that.”

  5. Kind of sad. She does deserve whatever comes now though. You can never roll, that kind of thing back, and trying to should finish her. Her comedy rests on the semi outraged meme, and she now can never convincingly go there again.

    I loved Jon Stewart and his show. Its been very sad to see all of his protegees turn to jelly as they signed on with the MSM ‘Russia hacked the election’ and ‘we should be outraged about Trump’ gravy train. Colbert was the biggest disappointment as he turned into the very thing he mocked for so long.

    It was a cheap shot too. Michelle kept it classy at least. ;)

  6. “In his campaign, Trump shocked. But the left has been playing with mud for decades and the amount thrown on Bush and Romney, Palin and McCain made me (and I suspect others) eventually not just cut Trump slack but cheer when he fought back. Well, what did you expect? If he coarsened the public square, it was one already knee deep in mud.

    That’s one of the things that made me give him some respect. After watching, since 1964, the mud thrown at Republicans (can you imagine a possible difference if Goldwater had fought back like that?) – Trump was giving them some of “their own medicine” and, as someone else said, that just makes their rage all the stronger. But then, he “grew up” in Manhattan where bloodletting is a sport.

    I don’t really admire the way he denigrated his primary opponents with personal insults (even McCain deserved some respect for what he endured in Hanoi) – but as someone said months ago he is the whole package and take it or leave it.

    I saw a lot more positives than negatives in voting for him and have not been disappointed.

  7. Everything the Left touches turns to dust — they are King Midas in reverse.

    It is said that during World War II, the Germans listened carefully to the BBC because their reporting was seen as accurate, whether the news was good or bad. Today, no serious person looks to the hard Left BBC for accurate news.

    New York Times — gone. Church of England — gone. Smithsonian Museum — gone. The concept of constitutional government — going. Catholic Church — going. The concept of democracy — going. Now we can add Comedy to the list of things undergoing destruction by the Left.

    It is hard to see what the end of this road will be. Maybe someday people will say to Hell with Political Correctness, pull out packs of cigarettes, and start smoking in bars again? Or maybe a wave of Islam will roll over the West and wash away the Left? The only thing we know for sure is that the Hard Left’s current victory contains the seeds of its future utter defeat.

  8. David, there is an interesting piece at NR, by a college student at Berkeley who wrote a theater review of a new play.

    I knew next to nothing about the playwright Phelim McAleer or his new play The $18-Billion Prize before reviewing it for the Bay Area theater site I certainly didn’t expect that reviewing this play would lead to the loss of my position. There were warnings, however; there was an email from the San Francisco Critics Circle going around to reviewers, cautioning that McAleer’s play might be dangerously biased against the environmental movement, among its other sins.

    It isn’t “biased.” It tells the truth about the Chevron case in which Chevron was assessed huge damages by a bribed Ecuadorian judge.

    Since losing a $19 billion judgment in an Ecuadorean court three years ago, Chevron has drawn the condemnation of human rights and environmental activists by refusing to pay anything in fines or accept blame for polluting the Ecuadorean rain forest.

    The award against Chevron was one of the largest judgments ever imposed by a court for environmental pollution, and it appeared to pit a mighty corporate Goliath against powerless peasants and the principal lawyer who represented them, Steven R. Donziger, as a brave David.

    Donziger was the one who bribed the judge and now has been fined $38 million by a Gibraltar court.

    The Supreme Court of Gibraltar has issued a judgment against Pablo Fajardo, Luis Yanza, Ermel Chavez, Frente de Defensa de la Amazonia (the “Front”) and Servicios Fromboliere for their role in a conspiracy to procure and attempt to enforce a fraudulent Ecuadorian judgment against Chevron. The court awarded Chevron Corporation $38 million in damages and interest and issued a permanent injunction against the defendants, preventing them from assisting or supporting the case against Chevron in any way.

    Fajardo, Yanza and Chavez are Directors at Amazonia Recovery Ltd. (“Amazonia”), a Gibraltar-based company set up to receive and distribute funds that the co-conspirators hoped to obtain from the corrupt Ecuadorian judgment. The company was established in 2012 by Steven Donziger, the lead American lawyer behind the fraud, and his associates. Donziger and Fajardo, an Ecuadorian lawyer, were found by a U.S. Federal Court to have engaged in extortion, money laundering, wire fraud, Foreign Corrupt Practices Act violations, witness tampering and obstruction of justice. The Front, which has long been involved in peddling a dishonest public relations campaign against Chevron aimed at extorting a settlement from the company, and Servicios Fromboliere, an Ecuadorian law firm established by Fajardo, are both shareholders in Amazonia and part of the extensive web of obscure entities established by the participants in the fraud against Chevron to attempt to hide their misconduct and profit from it.

    That is the subject of the play. It was not to be positively reviewed in San Francisco.

  9. Gavin

    I believe one of the reasons Trump has been so popular among some of us is that he has already said “the hell with political correctness“

  10. “Maybe someday people will say to Hell with Political Correctness, pull out packs of cigarettes, and start smoking in bars again?”

    What has slowly killing yourself have to do with political correctness? I have watched 2 people die from COPD and that is not at all pretty. I quit myself, some 30 years ago, and it was not easy.

    Now pulling out my vaporizer in the bar is not legal, but I do it sometimes. We used to have a smokers room at our local bar and toking up the waitress was as good as a tip. ;)

  11. Indeed – MOBY alert.
    Honestly, Ginny – I’m beginning to feel that people like Samantha Bee and her pals in the national entertainment media complex can’t help but be vile. And good that they are getting some portion of that vileness thrown back in their direction.

  12. I stopped watching the Daily Show in 1999 when too many of their scripted segments started becoming nothing but showing rural people, often but not always Southern, doing things that rural people like to do but urban people think are ridiculous. They weren’t jokes, they were just overt ridiculing of the other.

    I have only seen one episode of the Daily Show since. I think it was sometime in Obama’s 2nd term. John Stewart was unrecognizable. The show was nothing but him reading something that some GOP Congressman had said, then yelling at the screen to rapturous applause. It was like he had become Lewis Black, without any cleverness or subtlety (yes, that’s a joke…).

    Somewhere recently I read the term “clapter” to describe contemporary liberal humor. They’re not even attempting to get laughter. Christopher Hitchens had their number, and their audience’s:

  13. “The show was nothing but him reading something that some GOP Congressman had said, then yelling at the screen to rapturous applause.”

    Let me guess … it was Louis Gohmert, right? He’s always good for a belly laugh and Jon did use him a bit much perhaps. Louis is still at it, and has not gained any IQ points in the meantime. ;)

  14. “and has not gained any IQ points in the meantime. ;)”

    You mean like Keith Ellison ? At least Gohmert is not the RNC chair

  15. Trump’s greatest attraction is the thing that Lincoln defended in Grant: “I can’t spare this man. He fights.”

    For all his offensive habits and traits, he was the first major GOP figure since Reagan who fought back when unfairly attacked. I can tolerate a lot for a chance to win or even just hold my own.

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