Category Archives: Sexuality

Donald Trump, Ann Coulter, and the Culture of Hysteria

As the establishment’s coup d’etat against the democratically elected government of Donald Trump gathers momentum, readers are invited to read Ann Coulter’s latest book (Resistance Is Futile: How The Trump-Hating Left Lost Its Collective Mind), which the author says is a “self-help book for liberals,” though their hysteria about Trump will insure that few of them read it.

Psychologists have been treating “Trump anxiety” for some time now, and judging by the reaction of liberals to Coulter, they may soon have to treat Trump Tantrum Disorder as well. As Coulter points out, liberals have grown furiously unhinged by isolating themselves in self-righteous bubbles of Trump haters that exchange indignant comments about his latest outrages, most of which are simply imaginary.

For example, whenever the specter of American fascism is raised (every five minutes) we are told that Trump is a virtual Hitler clone. Uh, right. We all remember from our history books how Hitler went around boasting of his opportunities to grab women by the pussy, promising to replace the Treaty of Versailles with “something terrific,” and engaging in fawning adulation of anyone he hoped to get something from. As Coulter puts it, “I don’t remember Hitler or Stalin going around saying, ‘These people are great. Incredible, outstanding, quality people.’ And who in the WWII era would have described Hitler as Coulter describes Trump: ‘[He’s] utterly undisciplined, runs his mouth, flatters everyone, and agrees with the last person he spoke to. Why, it’s right out of the Mein Kampf playbook!”

The rage against Trump is proof that the election of 2016 never really ended. In her first post-election interview Hillary Clinton declared herself “part of the resistance,” rather than the customary “loyal opposition.” If Trump had lost and declared himself part of the anti-Clinton “resistance”, Coulter notes, there would have been demands to put him in jail. “He’s issuing a call to violence! ‘Resistance’ is a military term! It’s a ‘dog whistle’ to the militias and the KKK!” Touché.

This attitude is simply a continuation of liberal hysteria during the campaign. Remember the Access Hollywood tape, somehow not a sleazy “October surprise” by the partisan media, which made no secret of its loathing of Trump? In spite of what was repeatedly claimed, there was no endorsement of sexual assault on the tape. Unless you are using a weapon, “they let you do it” means consent. Trump was simply uttering truisms about celebrity culture, not glorifying rape. Notes Coulter: “His whole point was to cite something axiomatically unacceptable — grabbing women by the P-word — in order to say that celebrity culture was so out of whack that a celebrity could get away with it.” One could quibble with the “out of whack” part of the comment, as on the tape it appears that Trump, in fact, found this benefit of fame both natural and desirable. What needed to be explained was not this reaction of a life-long egomaniac but the shocked indignation of the corporate media: after all, who knew that billionaires and other mega-stars enjoy sex on demand from beautiful women? Right, everyone. And as Coulter points out, Trump used the identical approach in saying his popularity was so great that he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue without losing voter support. “That’s not a confession,” notes Coulter, “it’s hyperbole.” Nevertheless, she goes on, “Nexis can’t perform a search for all the publications that have accused Trump of admitting to ‘sexual assault,’ because it retrieves too many documents.” Long live fake news.

And while we’re on the subject of fake news, how long has it been since Trump was last accused of being a racist? Five minutes? Surely we can do better than that. Don’t let up for a minute on claims that he’s giving aid and comfort to “white nationalists” and therefore obligated to condemn David Duke every three minutes and defend himself against the Southern Poverty Law Center, which has warned of an imminent neo-Nazi-KKK take-over of the U.S. on a more or less constant basis for nearly four decades.

The Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville a year ago has been regarded as the definitive proof of Trump’s racism, though a New York Times reporter tweeted direct from the melee that left-wing Antifa protestors were just as aggressively violent as the racist right. Nevertheless, Trump’s observation that there was violence (and “good people”) “on both sides” has been used as confirmation of his alleged white supremacist sensibilities. By now, official memory has it that Antifa violence wasn’t violence, and only “Nazis” were guilty of such. In one of her book’s best lines, Coulter notes, “The more the rally recedes in time, the fresher a memory it becomes,” which is an excellent description of all kinds of propaganda induced “memory.” With all due regret for the death of Heather Heyer, we still don’t know anything about the state of mind of the man who ran over her, who may have been in fear for his life, and few “journalists” are even curious about the matter.

But on to the alleged Trump-Russia collusion in the 2016 elections that is the main focus of Coulter’s book. The basic allegation is that Trump, according to liberals a boundlessly incompetent buffoon, somehow managed to engage in a byzantine international conspiracy with Russian intelligence to steal the 2016 presidential election from Hillary Clinton. The original claim was that Russia hacked the e-mails of the DNC (after allegedly being invited to do so by Trump in a presidential debate with Clinton) and Hillary’s aide John Podesta, then gave them to WikiLeaks, and that this somehow predictably benefited Trump. But why the Russians would have hacked the DNC to retrieve “lost” e-mails that were no longer on their server is difficult to explain. Furthermore, how could the Russians have had any assurance that the Podesta e-mails would end up helping Trump? That leak mostly hurt the DNC chairperson Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who was forced to resign.

More to the point, the Russian election meddling theme is simply a joke. The U.S. meddles in elections all the time, and when that fails, overthrows unwanted governments by force, often assassinating their democratic leaders as well. At William Blum’s excellent archive at www.killinghope.org, you can read until your eyes bleed about the C.I.A. undermining democratic elections around the world going back seventy years. In recent years George Soros alone has repeatedly manipulated election outcomes in Georgia, the Ukraine, and Kyrgyzstan, variously called the Orange revolution, the Tulip revolution, and the Rose revolution. And while we like to wax self-righteous about Russia interfering in our elections, we tend to forget that Boris Yeltsin would not likely have become president of Russia without a major intervention by the U.S. But perhaps the most ludicrous notion of all is that a relative handful of Russian bots posting on Facebook handed the election to Trump, which is like saying that a coke poured in the water supply prevented us from curing our diabetes epidemic.

The origin of the story alone should make us extremely skeptical about any Trump-Russia collusion, even apart from the absurd pretense that the U.S. has the moral standing to accuse others of such anti-democratic practices. Hillary Clinton invented the Russian collusion story in the summer of 2016 because she needed to neutralize the DNC’s e-mails having shown up on WikiLeaks. This was a classic Clinton maneuver: whenever she is caught in a scandal she diverts attention to all-pervading imaginary enemies — misogynists, unscrupulous political opponents, racists, a vast right-wing conspiracy, and now, Russia and Donald Trump.

So Clinton campaign chairman Robby Mook went on ABC’s This Week with George Stephanopoulos to tell the world about the Russian conspiracy on July 24, 2016, the eve of the Democratic National Convention. “Experts are telling us that Russian state actors broke into the DNC, took all these emails and now are leaking them out through these Web sites …. And it’s troubling that some experts are now telling us that this was done by — by the Russians for the purpose of helping Donald Trump.” The anonymous reference to “some experts” has not been cleared up to this day.

Of course, Hillary Clinton would have preferred to spin a web of conspiracy around Trump and ISIS or Trump and North Korea, but Trump didn’t have business interests with either of them, so she revved up a new Cold War instead. She somehow managed to convince herself that the press was dead set against her and her Russia-connection conspiracy, even though only two of the fifty-nine largest newspapers in the country had failed to endorse her. Matt Taibbi and Glenn Greenwald were among the few liberal skeptics of the fantastic story.

In any event, by September 2016 the New York Times conceded that the consensus among government intelligence agencies was that WikiLeaks had no ties to Russian intelligence.

Two years and dozens of breathless claims later we still have zero evidence for the alleged Trump-Russia collusion. The FBI never investigated for the simple reason that the DNC wouldn’t allow the Bureau to examine its computers. As Glenn Greenwald noted in The Intercept, “there is no evidence . . . just CIA assertions over and over …”

Initial media response found the claim of a Russian conspiracy “remarkable,” and this held true until Hillary lost the election. Then it suddenly became a news story worthy of Watergate, replete with Congressional investigations, saturation media coverage, and an “independent” counsel. Obama reacted by meekly telling Putin to “cut it out,” but he imposed no sanctions, issued no major rebuke, and refrained from retaliation. This for something Thomas Friedman compared to Pearl Harbor and 911. In other words, after mild initial reaction, two years of intensive searching by the nation’s top investigative journalists and up to 100 FBI agents has yielded nothing like collusion.

What has passed for evidence in the case is a dossier authored by Christopher Steele, a British spy who offered Hillary Clinton and the Democratic national Committee dirt on Trump from the Russians. Did Hillary recoil in shocked outrage at this treasonous plot? Of course not. She paid Steele for the information. Yes, that’s right. Hillary Clinton colluded with the Russians to discredit Trump, but Robert Mueller isn’t interested in that collusion. He’s looking for collusion between Russia and the victim of the plot.

Explains Coulter: “Hillary’s campaign and the DNC hired Steele, using a Seattle law firm as a cutout. The law firm hired Fusion GPS, which in turn hired the British spy, who paid current and former Russian government officials for incriminating information on Trump.”

Steele revealed his motive to Department of Justice official Bruce Ohr, saying he was “desperate that Trump not get elected and was passionate about him not being president.” OK, but motives aside, did he come up with anything? Not if you believe the New York Times, which says that the information in the Steele dossier “was not corroborated, and the New York Times has not been able to confirm the claims.” And remember that the New York Times, like the press in general, loathes Trump, and would gladly have reported substantiation of the claims in the Steele dossier had they found any.

In fact, so eager was the NY Times to discredit Trump that it flat-out stated that his firing of F.B.I. director James Comey had “echoes of Watergate,”when in fact it did not. For Comey himself admitted under oath to Senator James Risch (R-Ohio) that the F.B.I. hadn’t been investigating Trump at the time he was fired, so Trump couldn’t have been “obstructing justice” in an ongoing case against him. In point of fact, Trump fired Comey precisely because he wouldn’t stop publicly insinuating that Trump was under investigation when in fact he wasn’t. Meanwhile, journalists simply assumed that Trump was guilty of colluding with Russia, and that firing Comey was a transparent attempt to cover up criminal activity.

In short, the mountain keeps laboring, but brings forth but a mouse. The charges to date are a complete farce. Here’s a partial list:

National Security Adviser Michael Flynn: He talked to Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak during the transition period between the Obama and Trump administrations, and then didn’t disclose it on security clearance paperwork, which is not customary because such meetings are routine.

Paul Manafort — Briefly Trump’s “campaign” chairman, he was originally accused of violating the same (unenforced) lobbying registration law that ensnared Michael Flynn, but has since been charged with setting up offshore accounts to avoid taxes, which could make him guilty of practicing capitalism. In October 2017, journalist Ken Silverstein wrote that “I can say with certainty that the law, which Manafort is accused of violating, known as the Foreign Agents Registration Act, or FARA, is a complete joke.” The article in which this comment appeared was entitled, “I’ve Covered Foreign Lobbying for 20 Years and I’m Amazed Manafort Got Busted.” In any event, Manafort’s guilt or innocence hasn’t been demonstrated to have anything to do with Trump.

Carter Page — a non-entity whose name Trump appears to have lifted out of a hat when confronted by media claims that he didn’t have any establishment certified national security advisers on his team. Page was subsequently slapped with a FISA warrant, which proves he is appallingly guilty of something. For as Ronald Reagan’s former Attorney General Ed Meese memorably informed us, “If a person is innocent of a crime, then he is not a suspect.” What could be clearer?

Attorney General Jeff Sessions — He also met with Russian ambassador Kislyak, when he was a senator, and then didn’t record the dastardly deed on security clearance forms, which the FBI doesn’t want because such meetings are routine.

But wait! Didn’t former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen pay Stormy Daniels to keep quiet about her affair with Trump? That’s a violation of campaign finance laws! Possibly, but such violations are a dime a dozen, and if we run every politician who has paid off a mistress out of office Washington will be a ghost town.

There is much, much more in Coulter’s book, but check it out of the library rather than buy it, since Coulter herself is equally prone to slipping into political hysteria when the topic is Communism or Islam. She insists, for example, that Martin Luther King was under the control of Moscow when he made his (accurate) claim that the “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world [is] my own government.” And, of course, many of us remember her advice for dealing with the Islamic world following the 911 attacks, when she said, quite subtly, that “we should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity.”

American politics is a tale of two hysterias. Rationality has been driven from the stage.

The Damaging Asian Male Sexuality in Crazy Rich Asians and Why It is Not Asian Black Panther

Crazy Rich Asians has already been compared by reviewers criticizing it for its exaltation of late-stage capitalism to The Great Gatsby. It is a good comparison because it is true. We know enough by now that if you throw a Gatsby-themed Jazz Age wedding, the joke’s on you—you clearly have not read the book, or, having read it, did not understand it. The same applies to the misguided celebration of Crazy Rich Asians as some triumph of representation or diversity if it is to be praised for its satirical quality. If there is any satire of wealth made in the book, all of it is lost in the film version.

Every subplot in the film is wrapped up neatly with an offering made, finally, at the altar of wealth. When the cool, graceful, unflappable Astrid, whom we are meant to sympathize with, finally leaves her unfaithful husband, Michael, we are meant to relish the moment. Finally, Astrid, released (from what?), can take out her hidden Dior shoes, reach for those 1.2 million-dollar earrings, and strut off, off-screen mechanical fan blowing in her hair to reveal the glinting jewels (which required their own security on set).

We are asked finally, not merely to kneel at the shrine of Money, but to suck its cock. For money is plainly the phallus in the world of Crazy Rich Asians.

Michael Teo, played by Pierre Png, we are meant to understand, of course, gets to marry Astrid despite not being rich, because he is hot. (That this is exaggerated and deliberate is evident to the Singaporean viewer because, being a staple on the small screen in Singapore, while a good-looking guy, Pierre Png has never really played “hunk.”) This point is driven home because more than on any other character—more than even Nick Young–, the camera drools over his body. When we are first introduced to the character, we see his body before we see his face and the camera lingers hungrily on the drops of water that roll down his smooth back, the towel he brings over his washboard abs, wrapping it just above … his… The-Thing-We-Do-Not-See—which is, in other words, the thing he does not have. For in Crazy Rich Asians, wealth is the substitute for the phallus. And, hot as Michael is, he still, unfortunately, comes up short. Astrid lays this out for the audience when she says, at the end, that it is not her family’s money that destroyed their marriage—it is his cowardice; she “cannot make him a man because he never was one.” Well let’s be clear—he never was one because he never had the money-phallus.

In the novel, Michael laments being “treated like just a piece of meat,” that “[they] were wrong for each other, but [they] both got so swept up in the moment—in, let’s face it, the sex—that” that before he realized it, they were standing before a pastor. In the novel, Michael did not actually cheat, merely staging the affair in order to get out of a marriage he could no longer bear to live out. (Surprise surprise!—it emasculates him.) The film lets this not unimportant point slide, which, importantly, allows for wealth to triumph in the end. Pointedly, what is so goading about this is that it allows the triumph of wealth to be presented as a moral triumph.

But how ridiculous that we are made by the movie to feel on the side of Astrid, who, in addition to buying a pair of earrings for 1.2 millions dollars without batting an eyelid when we are first introduced to her, also boasts of having 14 other apartment blocks so she can deign to let Michael keep the one apartment he bought. How quickly we forget that in Singapore, where this is set, we have one of the highest rates of income inequality in the world and that property prices are some of the highest in the world. How happily we forgive that Singapore’s Gini coefficient is greater than America’s and that it is a country famous for its low taxes for the rich. (Can we stop talking already about how Eduardo Saverin gave up US citizenship to move to Singapore for this reason? Is this something we are proud of? Is it something we benefit from?) How readily we pretend the noose of mortgages and home loans and rents around our neck is not tight, that most are not shackled, ball and chain, to their real estate …. when given all this display of wealth to ogle at. How… self-defeating.

In an age of ever increasing inequality, of massive tax cuts for the 0.1%, of Jeff Bezos becoming 125 million dollars richer per day while Amazon employees sleep in cars and have timed toilet breaks, do we not know that the wealth accumulated by the super rich comes at the expense of others? The distribution of wealth in so many parts of the world today is a zero sum game.

But, of course, there is no space to critique the Young family in the film especially because in Crazy Rich Asians, they are presented as near national heroes, practically deity-like —not only as having gainfully earned their riches through industry, but even by having done something patriotic because they built their wealth by literally building Singapore, furthering a nationalistic and even moral defense for their wealth. Peik Lin Goh summarizes who the Youngs are for Rachel Chu: the Young family built Singapore up from a sleepy swamp of “pig farmers” to the glittering city that we see today. This is rhetoric that to the Singaporean ear, too closely repeats the refrain the Singapore government has drilled into every Singaporean—that of Lee Kwan Yew and the PAP bringing Singapore from “Mudflats to Metropolis” in 50 years, our veritable Creators. Her storytelling, then, aligns the Young family, in rhetoric in any case, with Lee Kwan Yew. In other words, they are raised to the level of a God. Let’s not forget that Astrid, the “best” of them all, is nicknamed “The Goddess.”

Asian American

Crazy Rich Asians does mark an important moment in film history because it is the first time a big budget Hollywood film is helmed by an all-Asian cast and produced and directed by Asian people. Many of the articles coming out in the major publications arguing alternatingly for the film’s either progressive or regressive politics center around what it does for the Asian American community. But the “win” Asian-Americans claim the film garners for them is goading, particularly so in the context of the argument they are making about representation. The Asian American community is well-equipped with the tools and the vocabulary to critique appropriation–but in this particular case, they have let themselves off the hook. They are eager to use Singapore as a proxy for themselves when it suits them, when they are just as happy to elevate or otherwise differentiate themselves from “FOBs” (fresh-off-the-boat), Asian people who are not from the right class, in the right job, etc. This has played out infuriatingly in the NYT’s viral #its2016 hashtag a couple of years ago. Then, in a video, were retold a never-ending stream of grating anecdotes: “This guy mistook me for the guy cooking his Chinese food at the takeout counter. I’m a LAWYER”; “My uber driver told me my English was so good, he couldn’t hear an accent at all. Of course, I was BORN IN CALIFORNIA!” Again and again the same pattern emerged, one of substituting the shame of race–whatever the markers may be: accent, class, profession, food– with assertions of citizenship, of productivity, of wealth. In other words, assertions of qualities of not just the well-integrated and adjusted, but of the financially, socially, culturally successful. What do these anecdotes suggest about what we should think of Chinese takeout cooks? Or Asians immigrants (or even visitors) with an accent? What do they suggest about what we think of new immigrants? Of refugees? Of minorities for whom structures, present and past, have made the accumulation of wealth/immigration difficult?

They reinscribe the importance of citizenship, country of nativity, language, productivity, that form the basis for prejudice that these aggrieved persons faced in the first place. When the indignation stems from being confused with them (a Chinese takeout cook, a person with accented-English), it continues to traffic in an us/them binary, one that maintains the same irksome hierarchical structures that discriminate against Asian American people.

The Asian American community was quick (and right) to rush to condemn Oscars host Chris Rock for trotting out Asian children (dressed as the accountants who presumably flubbed the votes that resulted in such a goading skew to “white films”) to land a joke in bad taste at the expense of Asian Americans, even as he was making his case for better and more representation of African Americans during the 2016 Academy Awards amidst the scandal of #Oscarssowhite. Yet, in lauding Crazy Rich Asians for being a watershed moment for representation, Asian Americans conveniently do not see the lack of brown bodies on display, or the brown bodies only appearing in positions of servitude, or, most horrifically, dark bodies used for a breathtaking, cheap moment of racist comedy– Rachel Chu and Goh Peik Lin are shocked and scared by the appearance of turbaned Sikh guards at their car windows when they think they are lost in “the middle of a jungle”—faces emerging out of the dark as if they were predatory jungle animals. Can we not hear EM Forster’s famous phrase of Howard’s End ring out?: Only connect! To easily ignore these slippages and failures of the film constitutes a critical laziness and smacks of moral cowardice.

Asian Americans have taken to social media to hail Crazy Rich Asians as the Asian Black Panther. I can understand the need to feel like one’s identity has been reclaimed, the need to feel like one has been represented in roles that seem desirable or cool or something other than buck-toothed caricatures. I have lived as an Asian person in America for the last ten years; in many ways, the Asian American experience has increasingly become mine too. But not only is this Asian American response an appropriative one as I have explained above, it is profoundly insensitive and damaging. The importance of Black Panther is that, in the imaginary Wakanda, it presents the reparative and redemptive fantasy and potentiality of an Africa that has never been colonized. But it is still an imagined world, built on the a fictitious material, Vibranium, that literally fell out of the sky. Singapore, in contrast, is a real place, with real people–it is, to me, home.  What reviewers laud in Crazy Rich Asians in not an imaginary material, but neoliberal, late-stage capitalism on brash display–not to mention, a wealth that is enabled by Singapore’s colonial past, a past that has been traded in for colonial nostalgia. (There is no sense of postcolonial indignation in Singapore–there is no such critique taught in schools.)

But if the film doesn’t do for Asian Americans what they claim it is doing for them, it is also not doing anything for Asians in Asia. In one of the many tiring scenes where “Asian-ness” is being explained, Peik Lin tells Rachel that she is a “banana,” then goes on to explain what that is—  that old, limp (forgive me) pseudo-joke about being yellow on the outside, but white on the inside. What the show expounds, in the end, is that it is a great time to be a banana. Rachel Chu is a banana and the triumph at the end of the film is the triumph of American exceptionalism and individualism over the “Crazy” Rich Asians. And let’s be clear—the title is meant to be derogatory. It’s not just “crazy rich” Asians, but also “crazy” rich Asians. Kwan’s second novel, “China Rich Girlfriend” confirms this, for in that title, “china” is the modifier.

The film is praised for its representation of complex characters, for finally showing that yellow people have complexity. But what complexity are we given to see? Most of the characters are mostly vain, petty, greedy, materialistic, bitchy, conniving. Here and there, badly behaving Asians are used as a convenient excuse for “complex characters” which parades as a subversion of the stereotype of smart, meek, well-behaved, hardworking Asian. Is this the best that can be done to throw off the yoke of the Model Minority Myth? Are we so starved for representation that bad behavior not only passes for complexity, but is also championed for diversity in representation?

Let’s go to one of the more upsetting scenes of bad behavior by way of returning to the money-phallus. The bachelor party scene ends with the uncaptioned chant “ku ku jiao,” started by Bernard, that mirrors that amazing scene in Sorry To Bother You where Cassius Green is made to perform his race for the pleasure and consumption of a white audience, and ends up yelling “N***** shit, n****** shit, n***** n***** n***** shit” to their delight. “Ku ku jiao” is a term few outside of Singapore would understand, meaning “little birdie” or a little boy’s dick (a different term, “lan jiao,” would translate more like the locker-room jargon, “cock,” but that term is not used)— a painfully pathetic, self-hating dig at Asian male sexuality masquerading as narcissism and machismo.

The delight the rich white yuppies in Sorry To Bother You derive lies in having Cassius yell a literalization of what, to them, he is. For Bernard and the rest of the merrymakers at the bachelor party, this is true too. The next thrust of my point lies in the fact that while he is yelling this, Bernard is carrying a giant canon held at his crotch, a comedic substitute, after all, for the tumescence he does not have. Out of this he pumps –-not fireworks (which the budget of the film must have allowed and the aesthetic of the film must have found appropriate)—but impotent crackling duds that shoot forth and plop lamely into the sea, fizzling out. Before the camera cuts to the next scene, at the height of the “ku ku jiao” chant, he shoots out one last firecracker aimed at a skimpily clad dancer on the edge of the pool and blasts her off stage. Is this comedy? Is the best performance of Asian male sexuality and virility one that must culminate in an act of violence against a woman? Is this how the Asian man wins?

Had he the “ku ku jiao” he wanted to show off, when caught by the paparazzi with the gold digging actress in a later scene, he would not be turning embarrassedly away, tail between his legs, as it were (yes, pun intended). The embarrassment here, therefore, is not that he has been caught having sex (Bernard would love that), but that he has been caught with a small and/or limp dick—the joke, of course, rooted in the stereotype of the emasculated Asian male. To this situation, he turns, and to the eye of the camera and the audience both, offers up his naked ass—a brief moment of nudity that is meant to serve as comic relief.

But it is not really a funny moment. For starters, it occurs at a sort of manic and deranged moment in the film—when Rachel has been told the “truth” about her mother and is running confusedly away, getting lost among and accosted by, (for the first time what really feels like) Crazy Asians. Bernard’s literal undressing then occurs alongside Rachel’s metaphorical denuding and both are quite horrific. Recall, too, for a moment, that when punched by Nick Young as a boy, Bernard “wins” not by returning the punch, but by sitting on him. *insert old locker room joke about checking before sitting down in a steam room lest you sit in another man’s lap.* What passes for comedy is then profoundly homophobic, for it lies in the potential for the (Asian male) body for penetration. As Leo Bersani enlightens us in “Is the Rectum a Grave?” the penetration of bodies (male and female alike) is used too often in cultural representation to suggest a posture of being demeaned or humiliated and its use here therefore is loaded.

Of course, none of these cerebral critiques of the film I have offered yet quite get at the heart of the much more visceral reaction I had. I found myself weeping throughout the film, leaking tears inexplicably. It wasn’t because I was so moved by Rachel Chu’s trials and tribulations and ultimate triumph (which was what? So much homage, after all, to the tired old marriage plot) for Constance Wu’s googly eyes irritated me—her moments of cutesy-ness and self-infantilizing and fawning feeling like some subconscious capitulation to the trope of what a lovable Asian girl is. No, I felt crazed. My impulse upon seeing my little country on screen was to rush forward and cover up the screen, like seeing a sister or a good friend stripped on stage, or, to tear it all down. Again and again, not Gatsby, but that harrowing scene from Darren Aronofsky’s horror extravaganza Mother! flashed in my mind— of Jennifer Lawrence rushing pleadingly after her baby while Javier Bardem (God) tells her that the adoring fans out there just want to see him, just want to love him, just want to worship him. My fellow Singaporeans and my country itself seem to say this too—this is a chance for Singapore to be showcased on the world stage, an “INCREDIBLE BRANDING OPPORTUNITY!” to echo a local politician on the Trump/Kim summit. It doesn’t in fact matter that, in a Bacchic frenzy, in their greed or their love (it doesn’t matter which) they tear and grab at the baby, ripping it apart and eating it up. Again and again as Singapore was put on display, I felt like Jennifer Lawrence, whimpering “he’s mine.. he’s mine..,” anxious for the awful house guests masquerading as worshipping fans not to take her baby.

What saddens me is how ready Singapore is to prostitute herself for attention. What infuriates me is how ready the world is to use Singapore to serve as confirmation for their own ends. Singapore is quite stunning—indeed she has a brilliant shining facade which works as the most perfect magic mirror. Ask Singapore anything and she will show you the best answer: What does a suppression of free speech look like? What does a country with no free and independent media look like? What does a country with high income inequality look like? A prism light show; a cantilevered ship on the top of 3 buildings; skyscrapers; a harbor so busy it looks like its own city at night— Singapore twirling and answering: “me, me, me.”

If the film is a celebration of capitalism call it so, but it is not a celebration of diversity. The galling part of the hype around the film and representation is that it allows one to be taken for the other. For example, Goh Peik Lin’s character need not, for the purposes of plot, have been rich. Her character would have provided a prime opportunity to showcase someone of a different socio-economic class, to highlight Singapore’s wonderful public housing, if, indeed, diverse representation was what we were going for. I know by now it is not.

To praise the show for being “a watershed moment for representation” or the “first of its kind” is to facetiously traffic in false opposites, to be like Foucault’s Victorians who everywhere whisper in hush tones that no one talks about sex. To say that this is the first time Asians have been allowed to be seen in a positive light is to trade on a presupposition that we have not—and that is a lie. To be sure, Hollywood hasn’t always been a great source for representation—but do we expect it to be? In the 80s, Japanese pop culture gained popularity in America and the rest of Asia following its economic boom. In the past decade, the growth of the Korean beauty industry and the Kpop music scene has led to vast changes in the perception of beauty around the world. There are more (east) Asian models on the catwalks and fronting campaigns for luxury goods than ever before. If that is the sort of representation we are seeking, it hasn’t not been there. I’m not trying to say more shouldn’t be done, I am asking for people to be clear-eyed.

And this is what that bewildering opening quote from Napoleon about sleeping dragons reveals. “China is a sleeping giant. Let her sleep for when she wakes she will shake the world.” Asian people are more interesting now quite simply because China is powerful and has money. What’s that pithy racist aphorism again? All Asian people look alike. The present moment is a time when being a minority can be worn like a trendy skin in certain contexts (this doesn’t mean that minorities are not then discriminated against because the two are not mutually exclusive) and that is happily adopted and used to obfuscate that what we are really celebrating in Crazy Rich Asians is money. If it is a good time to be a banana—yellow on the outside—it is a better time to be gold.

Crazy Rich Asians may have its use for various groups, may enable different things, but let the international community not forget that Singapore is a real place, and it is not there for the use-value other groups can foist upon it. To a country of 5 million people, most of them not Crazy Rich, it is home.

The film is not without its redeeming qualities. To my surprise, one of the movie’s bravest and sexiest scenes is one rife with homoeroticism. After the painful bachelor party scene, the camera cuts to Rawa Island, where Colin and Nick lounge lazily, drinking beer. The scene opens with Colin jesting, “Listen, if it weren’t for Araminta, I’d ask you to marry me!” So much romance after all passing for bromance. Rawa Island is known in the region as a getaway vacation spot for couples. (Listen, I went there a year ago with my husband after we had just gotten engaged and we did the only two things available to do there: we had beers like Colin and Nick, and the other I leave to my discerning reader to fill in the blanks.) The two men sit half naked, perfectly at ease with each other, speaking candidly about their relationships, expressing happiness and due concern for each other, opening up and displaying vulnerability—this might yet be the most healthy portrayal of men (Asian and otherwise) that I’ve seen in a rom-com in decades!—and are, for the first time in the film, actually sexy. Their easy banter and open honesty with each other feels somehow sexier than the prescriptive interaction between the main couple. Sex between the main heterosexual couple is connoted twice in the film but both scenes are clunky and awkward—the first suggests, perhaps, the raunchy fantasy of joining the “Mile High Club,” but honestly, when have collared, long-sleeved silk pyjamas suggested anything other than the uniform of philanthropic old rich men in movies, much less sex appeal?

The film has already done much in generating buzz about race and representation, and has already done wonders for the careers of the Asian actors that have been involved in the film (Henry Golding will star in two more Hollywood films before the year is over, Gemma Chan has now been signed on to the Marvel Universe) and may yet do more—I hope it does. But that conversation should be separate from what the film itself is.

The Sexual Passion of Winston Smith

Christianity gave Eros poison to drink; he did not die of it, certainly, but degenerated to Vice.
— Frederick Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil

Ours is essentially a tragic age, so we refuse to take it tragically. The cataclysm has happened, we are among the ruins, we start to build up new little habitats, to have new little hopes. It is rather hard work: there is now no smooth road into the future: but we go round, or scramble over the obstacles. We’ve got to live, no matter how many skies have fallen.
— D. H. Lawrence, Lady Chatterley’s Lover

The so-called consumer society and the politics of corporate capitalism have created a second nature of man which ties him libidinally and aggressively to the commodity form.  The need for possessing, consuming, handling and constantly renewing gadgets, devices, instruments, engines, offered to and imposed upon the people, for using these wares even at the danger of one’s own destruction, has become a ‘biological’ need.

— Herbert Marcuse, One Dimensional Man

There is a vast literature analyzing the political prophecy of George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four.  Big Brother, double-speak, telescreens, crimestop, etc. – all applied to our current political situation.  The language has become part of our popular lexicon, and as such, has become clichéd through overuse.  Blithe, habitual use of language robs it of its power to crack open the safe that hides the realities of life.

There is no doubt that Orwell wrote a brilliant political warning about the methods of totalitarian control.  But hidden at the heart of the book is another lesson lost on most readers and commentators.  Rats, torture, and Newspeak resonate with people fixated on political repression, which is a major concern, of course.  But so too is privacy and sexual passion in a country of group-think and group-do, where “Big Brother” poisons you in the crib and the entertainment culture then takes over to desexualize intimacy by selling it as another public commodity.

The United States is a pornographic society.  By pornographic I do not just mean the omnipresent selling of exploitative sex through all media to titillate a voyeuristic public living in the unreality of screen “life” and screen sex through television, movies, and online obsessions.  I mean a commodified consciousness, where everyone and everything is part of a prostitution ring in the deepest sense of pornography’s meaning – for sale, bought.  And consumed by getting, spending, and selling.  Flicked into the net of Big Brother, whose job is to make sure everything fundamentally human and physical is debased and mediated, people become consumers of the unreal and direct experience is discouraged.  The natural world becomes an object to be conquered and used.  Animals are produced in chemical factories to be slaughtered by the billions only to appear bloodless under plastic wrap in supermarket coolers.

The human body disappears into hypnotic spectral images. One’s sex becomes one’s gender as the words are transmogrified and as one looks in the mirror of the looking-glass self and wonders how to identify the one looking back.  Streaming life from Netflix or Facebook becomes life the movie.  The brilliant perverseness of the mediated reality of a screen society – what Guy Debord calls The Society of the Spectacle – is that as it distances people from fundamental reality, it promotes that reality through its screen fantasies.  “Get away from it all and restore yourself at our spa in the rugged mountains where you can hike in pristine woods after yoga and a breakfast of locally sourced eggs and artisanally crafted bread.”  Such garbage would be funny if it weren’t so effective.  Debord writes:

The spectacle is not a collection of images, but a social relation among people, mediated by images….Where the real world changes into simple images, the simple images become real beings and effective motivations of hypnotic behavior.

Thus sex with robots and marrying yourself are not aberrations but logical extensions of a society where solipsism meets machine in the America dream.

As this happens, words and language become corrupted by the same forces that Orwell called Big Brother, whose job is total propaganda and social control.  Just as physical reality now mimics screen reality and thus becomes chimerical, language, through which human beings uncover and articulate the truth of being, becomes more and more abstract.  People don’t die; they “pass on” or “pass away.”  Dying, like real sex, is too physical.  Wars of aggression don’t exist; they are “overseas contingency operations.”  Killing people with drones isn’t killing; it’s “neutralizing them.”  There are a “ton” of examples, but I am sure “you guys” don’t need me to list any more.

Orwell called Big Brother’s language Newspeak, and Hemingway preceded him when he so famously wrote in disgust In a Farewell to Arms, “I was always embarrassed by the words sacred, glorious, and sacrifice, and the expression in vain….Abstract words such as glory, honor, courage, or hallow were obscene…”  This destruction of language has been going on for a long time, but it’s worth noting that from Hemingway’s WW I through Orwell’s WW II up until today’s endless U.S. wars against Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, Syria, Libya, etc., there has been the parallel development of screen and media culture, beginning with silent movies through television and on to the total electronic media environment we now inhabit – the surround sound and image bubble of literal abstractions that inhabit us, mentally and physically.  In such a society, to feel what you really feel and not what, in Hemingway’s words, “you were supposed to feel, and had been taught to feel” has become extremely difficult.

Language, as the Greeks told us, should open up a clearing for the truth (Greek aleitheia, unhiddenness) to emerge so we can grasp the essence of life.  And so it is ironically appropriate that Orwell’s Winston Smith discovers such essence, not in analyzing Crimestop, his tormenter O’Brien, or Doublethink, but “in a natural clearing, a tiny grass knoll surrounded by tall saplings that shut it in completely” where he secretly meets a young woman who had passed him a note saying she loved him.   Away from the prying eyes of Big Brother and his spies, amidst bluebells and a torrent of song from a thrush, they come together almost wordlessly.  “Winston and Julia clung together, fascinated” as the thrush sang madly.  “The music went on and on, minute after minute, with astonishing variations, never once repeating itself, almost as if the bird were deliberately showing off its virtuosity…He stopped thinking and merely felt.”  Here the secret lovers affirm their humanity, the truth of sexual intimacy that is the enemy of all abstractions used by the powerful to control and manipulate normal people and to convince them to participate in killing others.  “Almost as swiftly as he had imagined it, she had torn her clothes off, and when she flung them aside it was with that same magnificent gesture by which a whole civilization seemed to be annihilated.”  Reveling in love-making in a free space outside the Party’s control, they felt they had triumphed.

But as we learn in 1984 and should learn in the U.S.A. today, “seemed” is the key word.  Their triumph was temporary.  For sexual passion reveals truths that need to be confirmed in the mind.  In itself, sexual liberation can be easily manipulated, as it has been so effectively in the United States. “Repressive de-sublimation” Herbert Marcuse called it fifty years ago. You allow people to act out their sexual fantasies in commodified ways that can be controlled by the rulers, all the while ruling their minds and potential political rebelliousness. Sex becomes part of the service economy where people service each other while serving their masters.  Use pseudo-sex to sell them a way of life that traps them in an increasingly totalitarian social order that only seems free.  This has been accomplished primarily through screen culture and the concomitant confusion of sexual identity.  Perhaps you have noticed that over the past twenty-five years of growing social and political confusion, we have witnessed an exponential growth in “the electronic life,” the use of psychotropic drugs, and sexual disorientation.  This is no accident.  Wars have become as constant as Eros – the god of love, life, joy, and motion – has been divorced from sex as a stimulus and response release of tension in a “stressed” society.  Rollo May, the great American psychologist, grasped this:

Indeed, we have set sex over against eros, used sex precisely to avoid the anxiety-creating involvements of eros…We are in flight from eros and use sex as the vehicle for the flight…Eros [which includes, but is not limited to, passionate sex] is the center of vitality of a culture – its heart and soul.  And when release of tension takes the place of creative eros, the downfall of the civilization is assured.

Because Julia and Winston cannot permanently escape Oceania, but can only tryst, they succumb to Big Brother’s mind control and betray each other.  Their sexual affair can’t save them.   It is a moment of beauty and freedom in an impossible situation.  Of course, the hermetically sealed world of 1984 is not the United States.  Orwell created a society in which escape was impossible. It is, after all, an admonitory novel – not the real world.  Things are more subtle here; we still have some wiggle room – some – although the underlying truth is the same: the U.S. oligarchy, like “The Party,” “seeks power entirely for its own sake” and “are not interested in the good of others,” all rhetoric to the contrary. Our problem is that too many believe the rhetoric, and those who say they don’t really do at the deepest level.  Fly the flag and play the national anthem and their hearts are aflutter with hope.  Recycle old bromides about the next election when your political enemies will be swept out of office and excitement builds as though you had met the love of your life and all was well with the world.

But understanding the history of public relations, advertising, propaganda, the CIA, the national security apparatus, technology, etc., makes it clear that such hope is baseless. For the propaganda in this country has penetrated far deeper than anyone can imagine, and it has primarily done this through advanced technology and the religion of technique – machines as pure abstractions – that has poisoned not just our minds, but the deepest wellsprings of the body’s truths and the erotic imagination that links us in love to all life on earth.

In “Defence of Poetry,” Percy Bysshe Shelley writes:

The great secret of morals is love; or a going out of our nature, and an identification of ourselves with the beautiful which exists in thought, action, or person, not our own. A man, to be greatly good, must imagine intensely and comprehensively; he must put himself in the place of another and of many others; the pains and pleasure of his species must become his own. The great instrument of moral good is the imagination.

We are now faced with the question: Can we escape the forces of propaganda and mind control that run so very deep into American life?  If so, how?  Let’s imagine a way out.

Orwell makes it very clear that language is the key to mind control, as he delineates how Newspeak works. I think he is right.  And mind control also means the control of our bodies, Eros, our sex, our physical connections to all living beings and nature. Today the U.S. is reaching the point where “Oldspeak” – Standard English – has been replaced by Newspeak, and just “fragments of the literature of the past” survive here and there.  This is true for the schooled and unschooled.  In fact, those more trapped by the instrumental logic, disembodied data, and word games of the power elite are those who have gone through the most schooling, the indoctrination offered by the so-called “elite” universities. I suspect that more working-class and poor people still retain some sense of the old language and the fundamental meaning of words, since it is with their sweat and blood that they “earn their living.”  Many of the highly schooled are children of the power elite or those groomed to serve them, who are invited to join in living the life of power and privilege if they swallow their consciences and deaden their imaginations to the suffering their “life-styles” and ideological choices inflict on the rest of the world.

In this world of The New York Times, Harvard, The New Yorker, Martha’s Vineyard, The Washington Post, Wall St., Goldman Sachs, the boardrooms of the ruling corporations, all the corporate media, etc., language has become debased beyond recognition.  Here, as Orwell said of Newspeak, “a heretical thought…should be literally unthinkable, at least as far as thought is dependent on words.  Its vocabulary was so constructed as to give exact and often very subtle expression to every meaning that a Party member could properly wish to express.”  The intelligently orthodox, he adds, must master the art of “doublethink” wherein they hold two contradictory ideas in their minds simultaneously, while accepting both of them.  This is the key trick of logic and language that allows the power elites and their lackeys in the U.S. today to master the art of self-deception and feel good about themselves as they plunder the world.  In this “Party” world, the demonization, degradation, and killing of others is an abstraction; their lives are spectral.  Orwell describes doublethink this way:

To tell deliberate lives while genuinely believing in them, to forget any fact that has become inconvenient, and then, when it becomes necessary again, to draw it back from oblivion for just so long as it is needed, to deny the existence of objective reality and all the while to take account of the reality one denies – all this is indispensably necessary.  Even in using the word doublethink it is necessary to exercise doublethink.  For by using the word one admits one is tampering with reality; by a fresh act of doublethink one erases this knowledge; and so on indefinitely, with the lie always one leap ahead of the truth.

It may sound silly to say, but language, as its etymology tells us, begins with the tongue (Latin, lingua).  And the tongue is a bell, tolling out its meaning.  Indeed, all language springs from the body – is body language. And when language becomes abstract and devoid of blood, it becomes etiolated and unable to convey the truth that is the mystical body of the world.  It becomes a viper’s tongue, dividing the “good” people from the “bad” so the good can eliminate the bad who have become abstractions.

When Winston Smith and Julia hid in the arbor and for once felt free and alive as they fucked – despite its transitoriness – Orwell was suggesting something that his dystopian novel denies is possible: that we can escape our own 1984 in 2018 by returning to fundamentals. Whitman told us that if anything is sacred it is the human body, and he sung “the body electric.”  This is the task of artists: to sing the words that tell the truth the propagandists try to deny.

James Joyce writes in The Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man:

Welcome, oh life!  I go to encounter for the millionth time the reality of experience and to forge in the smithy of my soul the uncreated conscience of my race.

Perhaps we should add: in the smithy of our souls and bodies.  His fellow Irishman, William Butler Yeats, brings us down to earth with the words:

Now that my ladder’s gone/I must lie down where all the ladders start/In the foul rag and bone shop of the heart.

“Yes, I said. Yes, I will, yes.”

In Patriarchy, Sexual “Misconduct” Not Surprising

“I’m not surprised,” women say, in response to the flood of revelations of sexual “misconduct” by men, especially men in positions of power.

But none of us—women or men—should be surprised, because the United States is a patriarchal society and in patriarchy men routinely claim the right to own or control women’s bodies for reproduction and sexual pleasure. Men—liberal and conservative—know that just as well as women.

In such a society, conservative and liberal men will often disagree in public about the conditions under which they can rightly claim ownership. Conservative men argue for control of women within the heterosexual family. Liberal men argue for more expansive access to women. In public, the policy debates about reproductive rights and sexual access rage on. In private, conservative and liberal men claim their “right” to do as they please, which is why women sometimes find it difficult to tell conservative and liberal apart when it comes to behavior.

What kind of world has that produced? A sexually corrosive pop culture (both in dating practices and mediated images), with expanding sexual-exploitation industries (primarily prostitution and pornography), and routine sexual intrusion (the spectrum from sexual harassment to sexual assault). Women are routinely objectified in pop culture, reducing complex human beings to body parts for male pleasure. Men routinely buy and sell those objectified bodies for sexual pleasure, in person and on screens. And when men believe they can take those bodies without challenge, some men do just that.

Male or female, we are should not be surprised when in a patriarchal society—a society based on institutionalized male dominance—men exercise that dominance. Of course patriarchy is not static nor unidimensional, nor is it the only system of illegitimate authority. Patriarchy in 2017 is not exactly the same as in 1917; patriarchy in the United States is not the same as patriarchy in Saudi Arabia. Race, class, religion, and nation affect how patriarchy plays out in a specific time and place.

Patriarchy also is not immune to challenge. Feminism makes gains, patriarchy pushes back, and the struggle continues. Women advance in business, politics, and education, and men assert their control over women’s bodies where they can get away with it.

Radical feminism is the term for that component of the second wave of feminism (in the United States, the phase of the movement that emerged in the 1960s) that most directly confronts men’s sexual exploitation of women. In the three decades that I have been involved in radical feminist projects, this analysis has become more useful than ever in explaining an increasingly corrosive society, the mainstreaming of sexual exploitation, and the epidemic levels of sexual intrusion.

Yet both conservatives and liberals routinely dismiss radical feminism as dangerous, out of date, irrelevant. Why would an analysis that offers a compelling explanation of social trends be ignored? My experience suggests that it’s precisely because of the power of the radical feminist analysis that it is avoided. U.S. society is unwilling, or unable, to confront the pathology of patriarchy, a system of illegitimate authority woven so deeply into the fabric of everyday life that many people are afraid of naming it, let alone confronting it.

I remember clearly my first exposure to radical feminist ideas, when I was 30 years old, in the late 1980s. I knew that the women making these arguments, specifically about men’s exploitation of women in and through pornography, had to be crazy—because if they weren’t crazy I not only would have to rethink what I had learned about the sex/gender system in patriarchy but also change my own behavior. But radical feminism wore me down—with evidence and compelling arguments, along with an undeniable emotional honesty. Once I let myself listen carefully, radical feminism not only explained the oppression of girls and women but also helped me understand why I had never felt I could live up to the pathological standards of masculinity in patriarchy.

I had been taught that feminism, especially radical feminism, was a threat to men. I came to understand that it is a gift to us. Not the kind of gift that makes one feel warm and fuzzy but instead challenges us to be better than our patriarchal culture asks of us, to reject patriarchy’s glorification of control, conquest, and aggression.

I’m about to turn 60, and the half of my life lived with a feminist analysis has not always been easy, nor have I magically overcome all my flaws. But radical feminism allowed me to stop worrying about how to be a “real man” and start figuring out how to be a decent person.

The Market Forces of Sexual Abuse

The unbalanced relations and divisions of labor between the sexes dates back to long before patriarchy and had as much to do with nature, originally, as it has to do with power relations of money, at present. In the earliest societies men did not hunt and women gather due to any political dominance but to the physical realities that enabled men to run after and hunt animals for sustenance while women carried new life within them and had to stay closer to the nest gathering while developing what would become agricultural skills. It’s also likely that matriarchy existed due to the seeming powers of creating new life which were held by women, with possibly millennia passing before consciousness revealed that men had something to do with the creation of that life. But like so much else, the advance of what we call civilization has brought us both higher levels of material possibility and unfortunately lower levels of morality, both due to the commodity based relations forced on all humans, of all cultures and both sexes, by capitalist market forces in pursuit of private profit.

While living in a warfare state in which global destruction is threatened by nuclear powered adversaries, especially the USA which is both the inventor and only user of such murderous powers, much of American consciousness is occupied with this issue reduced to sometimes idiotic propaganda, while other issues become the stuff of surreality TV, fake news, and greater profits for the media, legal and psychology business community. Thus, we surround Russia and China with armadas and military bases while being told that Russia has destroyed our fictional democracy and China threatens our economic empire, and are given around the clock coverage of the renewed discovery that some men are pigs in relating to women, while some charges and countercharges of wrong doing have far more to do with the political and economic power of those making or resisting the charges.

Almost daily allegations, sometimes revelations, of things ranging from sexual indiscretions to abusive sexual practices lead to scandals causing powerful men to be reduced or quit their positions of power due to the public scorn which is both bad for men in business and good for women sometimes in the same business. The fact that women in some of these cases have waited many years before revealing such secrets is all due to what is seen as male power and rarely indentified as market power. The entertainment figures who have “come out” in the case of Weinstein all allowed his piggish behavior because they wanted-needed-aspired to the financial success his power might assure them but would possibly be denied if they had told him to buzz off or smacked his face when he dared disrespect them. It is pitiful for humans to be reduced to such groveling and submission before power, and all due to finance. It is also safe to imagine that if Weinstein looked like Brad Pitt, some might brag about attracting his attention at the time or be accused of wishful thinking if revealing it years later. The most important thing to consider is not just the male power exercised but also the economic power that serves as its foundation, obscuring any sense of self-respect on the part of victims, all at the upper end of the financial spectrum.

Tens of thousands of women suffer such disrespect, and much worse, while laboring in bars, restaurants, malls, coffee shops and other places of lesser financial reward collection, and usually do so in public silence, even if the outrages are common knowledge not only to those who suffer but often seen as the price that must be paid to get-do-succeed at the job. Playboy “Bunnies”, Hooters “Servers” and other women whose work totally depends on being subjectified as sexual merchandise, are part of the enormous and profitable sexual marketplace relatively invisible to those programmed to act in outrage at the treatment of those in service to a higher echelon at our collective sex mall. But the reduction of humanity in the pursuit of survival for the worker and profit for the owners is no different, in essence, at the bistro, the movie studio, the political palace, or the taco-pizza-burger joint. Those who need jobs are frequently reduced in humanity but have to go along in order to get or do the job, and socialized-to-be mistreated women reduced in stature by socialized-to-be mistreater men should remind us of the common state of humans reduced by market relations to perform in grudging acceptance of such disrespect in order to survive.

We should also consider the notion of justice alleged in believing an accuser simply because we agree with or have experience of what someone is being accused of. Our all but totally dependent on double standards culture makes it profitable for lynch mobs of thought or deed to form very quickly, emotionally and thoughtlessly, at the provocation of what some of us define as the Deep or Shallow State. Why is one person deemed a crook-liar-thug for doing what another person gets away with by being labeled a hero-heroine-savior? How does one president performing as a sexist slob become heroic when another who speaks like a sexist slob becomes a villain?

The social role of male and female is not a simple biological matter, and even that is being subject to all manner of stress and strain by market forces which enable some of us to buy sperm or rent wombs and become parents of new life which never knows one parent. That force of the market, dominant in all our lives but too often reduced to individual heroes and villains, needs to be considered in all these matters. If being able to afford profiting a law office is what amounts to justice, or being able to afford profiting an insurance company is what amounts to health care, then tolerating sexual abuse will remain a social reality. Far more than a person or a sex need to stand up against the systemic forces that keep us apart and at wars with each other, and worse, with nations, but if women need a model that is sex based, they should consider what happened 100 years ago when women took social action. They worked in a factory and while they may have suffered personal indignities their common cause was being overworked and underpaid. When they could no longer tolerate it they shouted, that’s enough – no more. Their walkout was one of the first actions in an experience that shook the world. It was called the Russian Revolution, and American knowledge of it is on a par with our ignorance of what market forces do to all of us, on both sides of the profit-loss ledger, with the losers growing in number and the profiteers growing wealth beyond reason. We need to become a collective people of reason who act as a democratic human race and not simply a sex or other identity group, to assure our survival as humanity before we are abused out of existence by being forced into continued action as racial, cultural and sexual commodities.

  • See also “Presumed Innocence and Trial by Media.”
  • Presumed Innocence and Trial by Media

    There has been a recent media frenzy surrounding elitist men’s alleged sexual predation toward women/girls and men/boys. The news is hard to miss. Of course, over-the-top, unwanted sexual advances when made known to be unwelcome, exceed boundaries and enter the realm of harassment and, perhaps, criminal behavior.

    But the condemnations of these alleged sexual predators has been based on trial by media rather than trials through the legal system.

    Israel Shamir exposes the social justice implications of this in a recent article. Yet the writer starts out his article in a problematic fashion. He attacks a woman based on her lack of, in Shamir’s eyes, physical attractiveness. She is described as an “old crow,” a “burly unattractive woman in her late fifties or sixties, dyed hair, pearl laces around wrinkled neck…” He concedes that the woman maybe “once … was young and pretty, and could awake passion in a man’s loins, but that was long time ago.”

    First, the physical attractiveness of a person, in youth or advanced age, should be irrelevant concerning the allegation that the person was a victim of sexual assault. Second, as is often quoted: “Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder.” The woman in question may not be Shamir’s cup of tea, but attraction has its own continuum. Third, the motivations that induce perpetrators to commit sexual assault are myriad and not just a function of physical attraction.

    But Shamir does raise questions that should be seriously pondered, such as why it took so long to speak, and where is the evidence supporting the allegation of a sexual assault.

    The why it took so long to speak is easily addressed by societal factors: the power imbalance between the alleged assaulter and the alleged victim, the lack of a corroborating witness, and the wrongful stigma attached to a woman who has been “touched.”

    However, if the allegations are untrue, then a person’s name has been smeared and a reputation defamed. A cornerstone of the American legal system is that a person is innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. This is the standard that is supposed to be upheld in a court of law. The media does not have such a standard. It can publish or air allegations with minimal concern for the alleged perpetrator. And we shouldn’t forget that it is also without much concern for those who are linked to the alleged perpetrator: wives, children, parents, siblings, friends, and colleagues.

    Just imagine if you were wrongfully and publicly accused of having committed a sexual assault. How would that affect those closest to you?

    The outcomes of such allegations can be devastating.1

    Can’t the alleged perpetrators sue for defamation? They can try, but that still will not erase the damage done by the public allegation, despite one being found not guilty afterwards. In fact, Harvey Weinstein did announce a $50 million suit against the New York Times. But such cases are difficult because as the Hollywood Reporter explained, “As a public figure, Weinstein will need to show actual malice to prevail in a defamation lawsuit against the Times…. Actual malice is a tough standard for plaintiffs…”

    Sexquisition

    Writes Shamir, “Only the Inquisition had similar features, with anonymous sources and obscure charges. Now we have sexquisition.”

    Shamir hearkens to the witch burnings in the late 17th century: “In Salem, men hunted witches; just three hundred years passed, and now witches hunt men.”
    Here again Shamir is problematic, bordering on misogyny. Instead of writing women hunt sexual predators, the women are witches and the alleged sexual predators are men. An unseemly bias is palpable.

    Shamir considers that if the alleged perpetrators “has a name, a position and some money in his bank account. For a mysterious reason, ordinary hard-living guys, taxi drivers, lift operators or assembly belt workers were never remembered…. Is it plausible that the working class blokes never push their way or even squeeze a girl? That only rich and famous guys do it?”

    Obviously not. But working class blokes tend to toil in obscurity unlike Hollywood moguls who covet the limelight.

    Shamir turns the table and identifies an assault on men. He claims the #MeToo campaign coerced many women to join because: “if you didn’t, perhaps nobody ever found you attractive enough to make a pass.”

    No evidence is given for the claim, and the rationale is challengeable. Shamir is asserting based on an overarching power of physical attraction. Indeed, there are undeniable advantages of being considered physically attractive, but it is not cut and dry.2

    Next, Shamir claims that women are much more receptive to mass hysteria than men. This is supported by the academic studies. But what Shamir has not done is to compellingly tie mass hysteria to the #MeToo campaign.

    Shamir questions the accounts of the women: “Is there some kernel of truth in those woeful tales?”

    He concedes: “Up to a point.”

    He then parses the women’s accounts and concludes: “Sex can be described – by a Puritan, by a man-hater, by a psycho, – in such a way that you will call for death sentence for the perpetrator.”

    In other words, some women may be partially truthful, but Puritans, man-haters, and psychos (one assumes Shamir’s examples are women) can twist words to persuade others to their twisted version of events. Yet humans exist on a continuum. Some people are more persuasive than others, and other people are more susceptible to the words of certain orators. If there is a gender bias toward the persuasiveness of a source, it appears to work against women.3

    Shamir states the obvious: “Anything can be described in nauseating manner.” He continues, “In the same time, actions that nauseate a normal person can be described as normal and even normative.” The example Shamir provides points to an animus. Writes he, “Normal men are revolted by the description or presentation of same-sex relationships.”

    In other words, heterosexual men are normal, and therefore, one is led to conclude that men who deviate from this sexual orientation must be abnormal. I identify as an exclusively heterosexual man; am I, therefore, normal? However, I am not revolted by the consensual sexual preferences of other humans, be they hetero-, bi-, or homo-sexual. Am I abnormal then?

    The writer misuses language, apparently attributing normalcy to statistical averages. One could just as well write that it is normal for people in China to spit in public. Does the statistical prevalence of spitting, therefore, render it less revolting (at least from a western cultural perspective)?

    It should also be noted that, as far as same-sex relations being considered normative or not, a recent study of American males found, “An overall 27.8% reported sexual desire toward the same sex (male) in varying degrees, of whom 37.5% reported sexual encounters with males (practicing homosexuals; 10.3% of the total sample) …”4

    Shamir continues: “Nowadays they [people] are forced to accept it [the homosexual act] as normal while considering usual man-to-woman act as almost criminal.”

    Shamir offers the bible, “this great source of common sense,” as a solution to sexual assaults. Strangely, this is the same book that motivated the Catholic Church to launch its Inquisition. Assuredly the bible does offer some commonsense, but it is also a source disseminating blatant immorality, such as death by stoning for cursing, blaspheming, adultery, for a woman who is not a virgin on her wedding night, for worshipping other gods, for disobeying parents, for breaking the Sabbath, etc.

    Shamir calls for “no anonymity for the accusers. If you accuse a man, be prepared to stand for it, do not hide behind the veil of anonymity.”

    Times have changed. There should be no need for a woman to feel stigmatized by the unwanted sexual predation of another person. However, there still probably exist many pockets of backwards morality in society.

    Better is a ban on publication and naming of an alleged suspect until such a person has been found guilty by a fair trial in a court of law.

    Shamir again contentiously argues, “As for harassment, this is most often an invention of man-haters. It should be out of criminal law and out of police business altogether. If a lady feels that somebody’s stares annoy her, she might sue the guy. Or call for a policeman if it is more than just stares. Policemen know how to deal with such guys.”

    The writer reduces sexual harassment to staring, but it is much more than that. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission explains:

    Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitutes sexual harassment when submission to or rejection of this conduct explicitly or implicitly affects an individual’s employment, unreasonably interferes with an individual’s work performance or creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive work environment. [emphasis added]

    In other words, your job or position in the workplace may be affected by not putting up with the harassment.

    The frenzy around the alleged sexual harassment, sexual assault, and rape in the media has its roots in a society based in capitalism. Wealth and power has been concentrated overwhelmingly in the hands of a few predominantly white men. Such wealth, all too often, provides cover for crimes. Victims can be frightened and/or bought off, police and court officials can be bribed, media can be silenced. One might well surmise that Harvey Weinstein must have pissed off someone much more powerful than he for his alleged sexual misbehavior to have reached the corporate media, thereby bursting the dam.

    In a society where power, status, and wealth is unfairly distributed, the potentials for this misallocation to foment elitist attitudes and a sense of being beyond the reproach of law lends itself to victimize the masses of society. Since wealth has accumulated especially among upper-crust men, women tend to be the victimized. And morally challenged men further down the totem pole may well seek to normalize sexual abuses.

    Conclusion

    Trial by media is wrong. So too is attacking the alleged victims. What are the options for women (and men) who are victims of sexual harassment and sexul assaults? It is difficult to provide forensic evidence or witness corroboration for these acts.

    Patriarchy is wrong. Elitism is wrong.

    The solution for preventing sexual harassment, assaults, rapes is not to be found in the bible or by decriminalizing sexual harassment. The solution involves overturning the establishment that fosters a climate in which sexual miscreants can operate. Women must be empowered. Sexism — against both men and women — must end. All workers must be empowered. And an egalitarian society must rise to replace a capitalist system beset with corruption.

    1. See David French, “A Suicide in Texas,” National Review, 12 April 2017. Cristina Criddle, “Mother of son who hanged himself after being accused of rape commits suicide a year later,” Telegraph, 29 July 2016.
    2. See Madeleine A Fugère, “Why Physical Attraction Matters, and When It Might Not,” Psychology Today, 5 January 2017.
    3. See Gervais, S. J. and Hillard, A. L. (2014), “Confronting Sexism as Persuasion: Effects of a Confrontation’s Recipient, Source, Message, and Context.” Journal of Social Issues, 70: 653–667. doi:10.1111/josi.12084
    4. See Shaeer, Osama and Sheer, Kamal, “The Global Online Sexuality Survey: The United States of America in 2011 homosexuality among English-speaking men,” Human Andrology: September 2015 – Volume 5(3): 45–48, doi: 10.1097/01.XHA.0000469536.57747.e7

    The Great American Sex Panic of 2017

    I confess to being troubled rather than elated by the daily rumble of idols falling to accusations of “sexual misconduct,” the morbid masscult fixation that conceals private titillation, knowing smirks, and sadistic lip-smacking behind a public mask of solemn reproof.

    Weinstein and Trump and Roy Moore and Bill Clinton are vile pigs and creeps, no doubt; I have always detested the smug neoliberal performance-art strut of Al Franken and the careerist-toady journalism of Glenn Thrush and Charlie Rose, the latest dominoes to tumble amid the barrage of public accusations of “inappropriate” advances or touching.

    But the boundary between cultural tolerance/intolerance blurs and shifts with each passing revelation, as the litany of sins, ancient or recent, cardinal or venial, snowballs into an avalanche of aggrieved, undifferentiated accusation—a stampeding herd of “Me-Tooists.” Successive waves of long-forgotten gropes and slurps now overwhelm the news channel chyrons, leaving us with the sense that no greater crime against humanity is possible than an unsolicited horndog lunge of the hand or tongue, some of them from twenty or thirty years past but divulged only in the past few weeks.

    Let’s be honest—these “shocking” revelations about Franken—that he tried to tongue-kiss a woman one time in a rehearsal and mock-grabbed her somnolent breasts in a silly frat-house pose or that maybe his hand strayed too far toward a woman’s derriere as he obliged her with a photo at a state fair five years ago—would have elicited nothing more than a public yawn just a few weeks or months ago in the BW (Before Weinstein) era; in fact, these two women, seemingly unperturbed enough to leave these incidents unreported for five or six years, would likely not have thought to join the solemn procession of the violated on national TV if not for the stampede effect of each successive cri de coeur.

    But is it an advance in collective ethical consciousness when the public reservoir of shock and indignation is so easily churned up and tapped out over erotic peccadillos? And here I must, of course, distinguish between outright rape—always a viscerally sickening crime against human dignity— or implied or explicit threats to a woman worker’s livelihood over sexual “favors” on the one hand, and on the other the impetuous volcanic eruptions of erotic passion that inevitably leave one or both partners discomfited or embarrassed or forlorn by unexpected or unwelcome overtures, tactile or verbal. As the left blogger Michael J. Smith points out, “Not all acts are equally grave—an off-color joke is not as bad as a grope, and a grope is not as bad as a rape.” Then what interest of sanity or reason is served by this reckless lumping together of flicks of the tongue and forcible rapes into the single broad-brush term “sexual misconduct,” as though there is no important difference between an oafish pat or crude remark at an office party and a gang rape? This would be like applying the term “communist” alike to advocates of single payer healthcare and campaigners for one-party centralized control of the entire economy—oh wait, we have seen precisely that: during the McCarthy era. Now then . . . is all this beginning to have a familiar ring to it?

    And not merely deeds but words have fallen under scrutiny: on Sunday Jeffrey Tambor joined the ranks of the accused, walking the plank by quitting his acclaimed Amazon series Transparent in the wake of two allegations of the use of “lewd” language in front of his assistant and a fellow actor. So the stain of ostracism has now spread from conduct to mere speech.

    Alarmingly, the Pecksniffian word lewd has enjoyed a recent rehabilitation among the corporate-media “news” networks, cogs in giant infotainment conglomerates whose cash flow depends precisely on mass dissemination of HD cinematic depictions of explicit sexual “lewdness” and violence that their news departments then deplore when evidenced in real life. “Lewd” enjoyed a boomlet during the presidential campaign when the pro-Clinton newsies and talking-head strategists were professing daily bouts of horror at the revelations of the Donald’s coarse frat-boy talk on Access Hollywood. This seems to have been the first time this word had gained any traction since seventeenth-century Salem and Victorian England. This battalion of elite lewdness police are the same Ivy League graduates who in college probably considered Henry Miller a genius, not in spite of, but because of, his portrayal of raw lust in language that makes Trump’s private palaver or Tambor’s japes seem tepid and repressed by comparison. (It’s not impossible that some of these same people consider Quentin Tarantino, cinematic maestro of the vile obscenities of language and violence, a great auteur as well.) The whole spectacle is at once comical and nauseating.

    And it indeed looks as though huge swaths of the world’s art and literature, from Pindar to Botticelli to Shakespeare to Joyce to Updike, will soon fall to the axe of the lewdness police. Let’s say that a college English professor, in a unit on American Transcendentalism, assigns the Whitman poem “I Sing the Body Electric,” and reads the poem aloud to his students, including the following passage:

    This is the female form,
    A divine nimbus exhales from it from head to foot,
    It attracts with fierce undeniable attraction,
    I am drawn by its breath as if I were no more than a helpless vapor, all falls aside but myself and it,
    Books, art, religion, time, the visible and solid earth, and what was expected of heaven or fear’d of hell, are now consumed,
    Mad filaments, ungovernable shoots play out of it, the response likewise ungovernable,
    Hair, bosom, hips, bend of legs, negligent falling hands all diffused, mine too diffused,
    Ebb stung by the flow and flow stung by the ebb, love-flesh swelling and deliciously aching,
    Limitless limpid jets of love hot and enormous, quivering jelly of love, white-blow and delirious juice,
    Bridegroom night of love working surely and softly into the prostrate dawn,
    Undulating into the willing and yielding day,
    Lost in the cleave of the clasping and sweet-flesh’d day.

    What if just one woman student were to wilt in distress at the sound of “quivering jelly of love” and then report the professor for imposing “lewd” and disturbing language on his students? Would he be hauled before the Ethics Committee? Stripped of tenure? Forced to resign? You find this preposterous? Then consider the following report from The Atlantic on the alarming trend of bowdlerizing the great canon of Western literature because of potentially offensive erotic content:

    Something strange is happening at America’s colleges and universities. A movement is arising, undirected and driven largely by students, to scrub campuses clean of words, ideas, and subjects that might cause discomfort or give offense. Last December, Jeannie Suk wrote in an online article for The New Yorker about law students asking her fellow professors at Harvard not to teach rape law—or, in one case, even use the word violate (as in “that violates the law”) lest it cause students distress. . . . A number of popular comedians, including Chris Rock, have stopped performing on college campuses. . . . Jerry Seinfeld and Bill Maher have publicly condemned the oversensitivity of college students, saying too many of them can’t take a joke.

    Two terms have risen quickly from obscurity into common campus parlance. Microaggressions are small actions or word choices that seem on their face to have no malicious intent but that are thought of as a kind of violence nonetheless. . . . Trigger warnings are alerts that professors are expected to issue if something in a course might cause a strong emotional response. For example, some students have called for warnings that Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart describes racial violence and that F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby portrays misogyny and physical abuse, so that students who have been previously victimized by racism or domestic violence can choose to avoid these works, which they believe might “trigger” a recurrence of past trauma.

    And this virus of censorious American PC puritanism has leapt across the Atlantic to inhibit even the teaching of Shakespeare—yes, Shakespeare—at British universities, as reported just last month in the The Independent:
    Academics have criticised “trigger warnings” after Cambridge University students were warned about “potentially distressing topics” in plays by Shakespeare. English literature undergraduates were apparently cautioned that a lecture focusing on Titus Andronicus and The Comedy of Errors would include “discussions of sexual violence” and “sexual assault.” According to The Telegraph, the trigger warnings were posted in the English Faculty’s “Notes on Lectures” document which is circulated to students at the university. Academics have expressed concern that colleges trying to protect young adults from certain issues may render them incapable of dealing with real life when they graduate. Supporters of trigger warnings say they serve to help students who may be upset if a text reminds them of a personal traumatic experience.

    However, critics such as Mary Beard, a Professor of Classics at Cambridge, say allowing students to avoid learning about traumatic episodes of history and literature is “fundamentally dishonest.” Beard said previously: “We have to encourage students to be able to face that, even when they find they’re awkward and difficult for all kinds of good reasons.” David Crilly, artistic director at The Cambridge Shakespeare Festival, said: “If a student of English Literature doesn’t know that Titus Andronicus contains scenes of violence they shouldn’t be on the course.”

    But voices of sanity such as Beard’s and Crilly’s may be fighting a noble but lost cause against the PC cultural vigilantes, clamoring for the blood of the next prominent stumbler into errant sexual expression, in the lecture hall or office or rehearsal hall or bar. But if we may be allowed to descend from the High Courts of Sexual Inquisition to the land of the living—that is, the merely fallible, sex-tormented mortals who actually make up the human race—who hasn’t lived through anguished or comical moments, either as predator or prey or both at once, in the throes of the temporary madness of desire? And did such impulsive leaps of lust or passion strike anyone as a cause for ritual mass tongue-lashing and tongue-clucking and compulsive daily confessionals and public media crucifixions in the BW era, except perhaps among the most severe of anti-sex feminists like Andrea Dworkin, who considered every heterosexual act of intercourse to be a form of rape? Did anyone but reactionary blue-noses think about suppressing or avoiding the works of Henry Miller? Or D. H Lawrence? Or even Al Goldstein? Yet now even Shakespeare finds himself on the PC Index. Among the sexual-politics contingents of early second-wave feminists, there were, to be sure, literary eviscerations and cultural firestorms, but nothing like the current pell-mell instant media arraignment for crimes against humanity warranting public investigations, tribunals, denunciations and career death sentences. It all smacks of the hellfire zeal of a religious persecution, a jarring devolution of establishment liberals into old-fashioned American sexual head hunters and cultural bluenoses in the tradition of their forebears in Salem and the fundamentalist South.

    Betraying a fundamentally elitist impulse to manage and control, the PC inquisitors instinctively recoil from the unruly tempests of human sexuality—the source of desire, the primal torrent driving all passion and pleasure, the wellspring of life itself—that at times deafens and blinds and exalts all of us. With the soul of an accountant and the temperament of the professional manager, the PC inquisitors seeks to confine the Dionysian chaos of Eros within the strictures of a bureaucratic handbook of procedure and etiquette, as though a sexual impulse or encounter were a banking transaction or a court proceeding. Thus do the neoliberal elites conduct this front in their incessant war on nature, including the unruly source of nature itself: behold the dismaying spectacle of these joyless, bloodless mortals doing futile battle with the god Eros. The vigilantes cannot win this battle, of course, but they can inflict needless damage on reputations, careers, on our entire cultural heritage in enforcing their groupthink compendium of trigger warnings, speech codes, and rules of order.

    Something surpassingly strange is at work here—a wrong-headed authoritarian ire over the spasmodic misfires of the human comedy combined with some primal meltdown of a besieged and increasingly desperate ruling class and its longstanding winking sexual hypocrisies. It is a moral panic that is, ironically, immoral at its core: repressive and diversionary, an identity-politics orgy of misdirected moral energies that breeds a chilling conformity of word and deed and, in so doing, cripples the critical faculties and independence of spirit needed to challenge the status quo the PC monitors profess to abhor. In reality, their speech and conduct codes foster a spirit of regimentation rather than rebellion, thereby shoring up the power of the repressive elites that are leading the human race to social, economic, and ecological disaster.

    So this is not just a moral panic—but a bizarre inversion of values in which Bill Clinton can murder 500,000 Iraqi children, throw millions of poor women and their children off welfare, and instigate the global rule of transnational corporations with NAFTA, but he is not impeached or stigmatized for any of those atrocities but rather for a workplace blowjob; in which Hillary Clinton can lead the charge for the destruction of Libya, reducing that country to primeval rubble, and is not only not fired or ostracized but is rewarded with the Democrats’ presidential nomination and lauded by corporate feminists as a champion of “inclusiveness”; in which Barack Obama pushed fraudulent health-care reform that leaves a barbaric 27 million people with zero coverage and millions more with crippling premiums and deductibles that render their “coverage” all but unusable, thus sentencing tens of thousands of people to death every year because they cannot afford timely medical care, and dropped 26,171 bombs in 2016 alone, and yet he is not only not reviled and abominated as a con artist but is worshipped as an icon of enlightened governance; in which the entire ruling elite and its associates in the corporate media are chronically underplaying—indeed, scarcely mentioning—the gravity of the climate change crisis, which could merely spell the end of the human species within a hundred years, yet no copycat 24/7 umbrage or five-alarm indignation on the part of anyone in those elite circles or their acolytes over this unprecedented planetary emergency.

    Hence the long-buried, freshly unearthed ego bruises of the privileged identity-politics crowd eclipse mass murder and ecocide on the outrage meters of this country’s opinion shapers.  The same solemn cohort—mostly white and middle-class, many of them ardent McResistance DNC partisans (or, in the case of Leean Tweeden, Franken’s tongue-kiss accuser, a movement conservative who twice voted for George W. Bush)—is so easily roused to near-apoplexy about a naughty lunge of the hand or tongue yet discreetly ignores or openly cheers on unparalleled crimes against humanity: endless debilitating wars against nameless enemies abroad, the toxic mercenary corruption and annihilation of democracy, staggering political/social inequality (the top one percent of the world’s population now owns half of the world’s wealth), and ecocide everywhere—committed and abetted with impunity by the PC brigades’ culture heroes like the Clintons and Obama and their cohorts in the media and the corporate/political elites.

    So yes—prosecute the rapists and pedophiles and let them suffer in jail. But you will excuse me if I stand aside from the stampede of outrage about Al Franken’s wayward tongue or even Donald Trump’s juvenile frat-house boasts while the world teeters on the brink. The scale of values of this country’s liberal elites, and the issues that fuel and exhaust their capacity for outrage, border on moral dementia. Their vaunted “values” lead us not to virtue and to spiritual renewal, but to the nauseating sanctimony of the custodians of a charnel house—to the abyss.

    • This article originally appeared in CounterPunch

    Death by a Thousand Cuts: When the Cures of Big Pharma are Worse than the Diseases

    The vaccine debate and prying into Planned Parenthood’s Standard Operating Procedure are two arenas I have not gravitated toward. Genetically-engineered crops, industrial farming, confined feeding operations (CAFOs), dams killing wild salmon, these are my fortes.

    The news daily is like death by a thousand cuts for me tied to new studies on collapsing ecosystems, indigenous people fighting against mines and other extractive industries, and more and more on climate change/global warming.

    I never thought I’d be embroiled in a fight for my livelihood because I questioned the rampant vaccination of girls (and now boys) with the Merck marketed HPV vaccine, Gardasil. To date, more than 270,000,000 doses have been distributed worldwide, this HPV vaccine (World Health Organization’s Global Advisory Committee on Vaccine Safety) distributed by both GlaxoSmithKline and Merck versions. There are scientists who say the human papillomavirus is not the cancer threat posited by the drug manufacturers and their paid-off doctors;  that most immune systems can fight off the HPV; that the vaccine only hits two of the more than 40 different HPV phenotypes.

    My story with HPV vaccine started when I was in a Planned Parenthood training last month, a mandatory course for social workers titled Fundamentals of Sex Ed. For a total of possibly 30 seconds out of a 16-hour two-day training (I was kicked out after day one, eight hours worth), I voiced my opinion about the potential risks associated with Gardasil.

    The opinion was put down on a slip of paper, then, and thrown in with dozens of other comments from the 40 participants. This is in Seattle, one of the bigger Planned Parenthood locations, and the comments I made were specifically sold to us all as “an anonymous forum.” I went further with two more comments on the slips of paper — about 60 words answering this first day evaluation question: “What could Planned Parenthood have done differently today in the training?”

    I am really disappointed that Planned Parenthood in Seattle is so lock-step in line with Big Pharma. Especially in the case of Gardasil, which is a vaccine that has gotten tens of thousands complaints about it. Anyone, including my 16- to 21-year-old clients, could easily Google ‘Gardasil Dangers’ and find a plethora of very disturbing and legitimate information about its dangers. I wish Planned Parenthood showed more critical thinking and independent pedagogical standards, including informed consent.

    Less than two hours after the training, I was called at my hotel room by my supervisor from Portland, who let me know:

    The Planned Parenthood trainers said they do not want you back for the second day of training. I am putting you on administrative leave. I am looking into what happened in Seattle. Do not return to the office until further notice.

    That was October 15, and I have since been terminated, have been on the job market, am attempting to collect a few weeks of unemployment assistance, have a lawyer investigating my case, and started writing about my case on multiple forums. You can read my posts “My Fate as a Social Worker Sealed by a Vaccine Named Gardasil“; “Planned Parenthood, A VaccineDouble-think Alive and Well in the World of Non-profits“; “Gardasil and the American Bald Eagle – What Would Rachel Carson Do?

    The Sordid History of the HPV Vaccine

    I have collected a hundred reports, articles, documentaries and blogs tied to the HPV vaccine, which has been in use since 2006. Here are just few: How Much Does the Vaccine Cost?, Sacrificial Virgins, Gardasil Did It/ Fue el Gardasil. The treasure trove is enlightening, intimidating, depressing and validating. Every drug and chemical in the world should have this amount of scrutiny, and yet, the depressing part is that once something is introduced into our systems of medicine, food production/ processing, and modern industrial existence, the unintended consequences and synergistic downsides are more difficult to elevate to a level of grave public concern.

    The PR firms, legal teams, government agencies, law makers, and politicians all have a stake in the game with trillions of dollars in profits at stake. In fact, the pharmaceutical industry is the single largest contributor (number two being insurance industry) to congressional accounts in the United States, spending almost 2.5 billion dollars the past decade in lobbying efforts, more than double the spending of the defense industry. This is, of course, in addition to the many billions more spent on marketing their products to both consumers and directly to physicians.

    The issues whirling around Gardasil represent a microcosm of all that is wrong with our healthcare industry. It is difficult at best and impossible for most to speak out against the power purchased with these multi-billion dollar budgets; in many cases, Big Pharma is killing us with their practices, marketing and products. If you are a citizen, a consumer group, a watchdog agency or journalist going against the grain, the road to hell is paved with threats, lawsuits, and vitriol. We are labeled conspiracists, Luddites, anti-science extremists and crazies or nuts. Death by a thousand cuts!

    Here is an anonymous comment emailed to me, and it’s endemic of the HPV vaccination controversy involving thousands of victims (and deaths) ascribed to the vaccination doses given these young girls and women:

    I’ve been extensively investigating vaccines for 23 years and I believe that vaccines are one of the biggest contributors to the childhood epidemics of chronic disease. Over half of the kids in this country have been diagnosed with a chronic illness. Not only is it not prudent to mandate vaccines, it is in violation of informed consent and an affront to parental rights. The rush to get Gardasil (and all vaccines) approved is about one thing: $$$. Gardasil is not mandatory though in any state. It’s recommended but not mandatory – yet. It’s one of the most dangerous vaccines and should be completely avoided.

    Whether it is vaccines, medications, agricultural or industrial chemicals, questions of safety are rarely tolerated. I knew this from my background in environmental studies, writing and activism. Even so, I was caught off guard by these recent events.

    Toxic History and Citizen Action: The Fight Never Ends

    I cut my teeth as a budding reporter in Arizona working on issues tied to sprawl, city and county politics, the cop shop, and more as a community journalist for several dailies. I also ate up journalism from other great venues, including one that links tangentially to the Gardasil story. It was on the Love Canal case (a neighborhood near Niagara Falls, NY) in the 1970s. Love Canal’s toxic history began when Hooker Chemical Co. used an abandoned canal from 1942 to 1953 to dump 21,800 tons of industrial hazardous waste (‘Love Canal’ still oozing poison 35 years later).

    Later, the slurry was “capped,” and then hundreds of homes and a school were built on top of it. A harsh winter in 1977 with several meters of snow resulted in a spring melt seeping into the buried 16-acre canal which forced chemical waste into groundwater and to the surface, oozing into yards and basements (Superfund).

    Residents began complaining of miscarriages, urinary and kidney problems and mental disabilities in their children. A quiet mother and homemaker began putting pieces together and contacted scientists and state government agencies.

    Headlines like this anchor what she did as just a common person: “Lois Gibbs, a housewife leads the charge for evacuation, compensation and warns against resettling the area.”

    That case led to the formation in 1980 of the Superfund program, which helps pay for the cleanup of toxic sites (From homemaker to hell-raiser in Love Canal).

    As I have set up this series with environmentalist-scientist Rachel Carson’s book, Silent Spring, this fourth article around this controversy (for DV) dovetails with environmentalist Lois Gibbs. How insane is it that she revisited the Love Canal site on the 35th anniversary in November 2013 and witnessed a new generation of mothers and fathers locked into lawsuits with Occidental Petroleum Corp., the new caretaker of the land, again, because of the toxic soil and health implications for them and their families (Happy Birthday, Love Canal). Rashes, stomach sickness, fainting, seizure. Insanity, the ooze that Gibbs tied to birth defects was recapped (mitigated) with new homes built where those in Gibbs’ old neighborhood had been demolished.

    It was so weird to go back and stand next to someone who was crying and saying the exact same thing I said thirty-five years ago, Gibbs said.

    More than 1,000 tons of contaminated soil are being now being shipped to an incinerator in Lincoln, Nebraska (Love Canal soil going to Kimball incinerator). We don’t know who said, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results,” but Albert Einstein did say, “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”

    Like Carson, Gibbs penned a few books – Dying from Dioxin (1995); Love Canal The Story Continues (1998); Love Canal: and the Birth of the Environmental Health Movement (2010) – and founded an organization fighting toxins:

    The Center for Health, Environment & Justice which supports a nationwide network of more than 300 local community groups to achieve critical policy impacts at the local, regional, statewide and national levels. The communities we serve are largely rural, low-wealth or working class—the kind of areas where toxic chemicals, polluting facilities and other environmental dangers are sited.

    Get Lit with Literature!

    The biggest influences for me in regard to social justice and the power of collective action came to me through the arts, poetry and literature, at a young age. For me, the game changer was considering Herman Melville’s short story, Bartleby the Scrivener, or Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness.

    Imagine my surprise, nay, my consternation, when without moving from his privacy, Bartleby, in a singular mild, firm voice, replied, ‘I would prefer not to.’

    — Herman Melville

    The mind of man is capable of anything–because everything is in it, all the past as well as all the future. What was there after all? Joy, fear, sorrow, devotion, valor, rage–who can tell?—but truth–truth stripped of its cloak of time.

    — Joseph Conrad

    This very concept of those willing to kill and maim and conquer for a profit came to bear quickly after reading Conrad and so many other thinkers. The idea, though, of this strange man, Bartleby, basically intoning his manager, “I would prefer not to,” symbolizes one of the world’s most powerful phrases. “I would prefer not to.” How many among us can say the same when faced with ethical challenges.

    Fact is Stranger than Fiction

    What I am finding in my own nascent life tied to Gardasil and Planned Parenthood is a type of bearing witness, knowing there are deeper and more layered and nuanced ways of looking at the mad men in advertising, marketing, propaganda and more existential ways of contemplating the insanity of unlimited growth, the consumer assault and battery from the merchants of death.

    The leap from literary/poetic to environmental and science writing was not a high one. I was still reading  writers like Eduardo GaleanoVonnegut Ursula Le GuinDenise Levertov and  Jorge Luis Borges, but I did devour Carson’s Silent Spring when I was 16, and that too put me on a course toward writing literary works, and poetry, as well as becoming a journalist hoping to cover science. Carson was on the staff of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for 16 years and was highly cognizant of the fact the government played a huge role in promoting and defending chemical poisons.

    “The crusade to create a chemically sterile, insect-free world,” Carson wrote, “seems to have engendered a fanatic zeal on the part of many specialists and most of the so-called control agencies.”

    She believed that she was living in an era

    dominated by industry, in which the right to make a dollar at whatever cost is seldom challenged. When the public protests, confronted with some obvious evidence of damaging results of pesticide applications, it is fed little tranquilizing pills of half-truth. We urgently need an end to these false assurances, to the sugar coating of unpalatable facts.

    The cross-pollination of a huge marketing campaigns with scientists and medical companies and pharmaceuticals is both bizarre and business as usual. Here, in 2006, from one of those marketing firms:

    More than 95 insurance plans–covering 94 percent of insured individuals–have decided to reimburse Gardasil, according to Merck. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has also added the vaccine to its Vaccines for Children Contract, making it available to Medicaid-eligible, uninsured, under-insured, or Native American children up to the age of 18.

    Analysts are optimistic about the vaccine’s market potential. ‘It’s very clear that patients are going to be interested in it,’ said John Lebbos, MD, therapeutic area director of infectious diseases at market research firm Decision Resources. ‘From what I’ve seen, it’s going to be a blockbuster.’

    Education about the vaccine is going to be a critical piece–due both to a lack of understanding about HPV as well as early controversy that vaccination might lead to teen promiscuity.

    Note the terminology of the purveyors of capital and profit-making health care: “vaccine’s market potential” and “it’s going to be a blockbuster.” Words from an MD whose Hippocratic oath states first do no harm!

    From the onset of Gardasil, after the fast-tracked shoddy FDA approval (Examining the FDA’s HPV Vaccine Records), Merck deployed the services of one of the world’s propaganda firms, AKA PR outfits:

    The PR genius behind all stages of Merck’s HPV and Gardasil campaigns is the PR giant Edelman. The world’s largest independent PR firm, Edelman boasts more than 2,100 employees working in 46 wholly owned offices worldwide, plus the additional resources of more than 50 affiliates. Apparently Merck is hoping that most, if not all the states in the US, will mandate a vaccine against HPV as a pre-requisite for school attendance. And beat rivals to it, before GlaxoSmithKline gets FDA approval for its Cervarix.

    In the dozens and dozens of articles in the New York Times, in reports by PR Watch and Judicial Watch, scant few mentioning of the untold physical incapacitation, chronic illness and deaths tied to Gardasil by many citizen groups with some scientists behind the calls to stop the Gardasil-Cervarix mass vaccination program (TruthWiki   US Court Pays $6 Million to Gardasil Victims    Judicial Watch:  a,   b,  c    Are You Concerned Over Genetically Modified Vaccine?  HPV Researchers, Planned Parenthood Win Prestigious Lasker Medical Awards).

    But, 11 years ago, even before FDA approval, Merck and Edelman were on the PR war-path beating the cervical cancer drums:

    Merck used its deep pockets to make sure that even before the FDA had approved Gardasil, there was a growing awareness of and concern about HPV and its link to cervical cancer. According to Bloomberg News, Merck spent $841,000 for Internet ads alone relating to HPV in the first quarter of 2006 — months before the FDA had even approved Gardasil (Part One: Setting the Stage).

    Again, this series on Gardasil-Merck-Planned Parenthood-and-my-termination looks at the funding and ties to non-profits, but also at the new documentaries and court cases illuminating the young girls and women who say they have been injured (and many family members of deceased girls say killed) by the HPV vaccine.

    Here’s just one tip of the iceberg in this non-profit collusion with the funders, health care for-profits, and this is a three-part series written for PR Watch in 2017 by journalist Judith Siers-Poisson:

    According to their website, “Women in Government is a national 501(c)(3), non-profit, bi-partisan organization of women state legislators providing leadership opportunities, networking, expert forums, and educational resources to address and resolve complex public policy issues.” The campaigns that they feature on their home page deal with kidney health, Medicare preventive services, higher education policy, and the “Challenge to Eliminate Cervical Cancer,” which was publicly launched in 2004.

    On February 2, 2007, Texas Governor Rick Perry, against the wishes of his conservative base and to the surprise of critics, signed an executive order mandating HPV vaccination for girls entering seventh grade. Then, unfortunately for Perry and Merck, details of his many connections with both Merck and Women in Government became public.

    Ellen Goodman of the Boston Globe noted, “It turned out that Perry’s former chief of staff is now a lobbyist for Merck. Did that look bad? Whoa, Nellie. Did it look bad that Merck had funded an organization of women legislators backing similar bills? Whoa, Merck.” USA Today reported that Perry’s current chief of staff’s mother-in-law, Texas Republican State Representative Dianne White Delisi, is a state director for Women in Government. Perry’s wife, Anita, a nurse by training, addressed a WIG summit on cervical cancer in Atlanta in November 2005. Perry also received $6,000 from Merck’s political action committee during his re-election campaign.

    In 2004, more than 20 WIG funders were pharmaceutical companies or entities heavily invested in health care issues that could come before state legislators. A short list includes both Merck & Co., Inc and Merck Vaccine, GlaxoSmithKline (which will soon have the second HPV vaccine on the market), and Digene Corporation (which manufactures an HPV test). Other drug interests listed as donors to WIG include Novartis, Eli Lilly, AstraZeneca, Bayer Healthcare, Pfizer, Bristol-Myers Squibb (both the company and their foundation), and Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, also known as PhRMA, one of the largest and most influential lobbying organizations in Washington representing 48 drug companies.

    The funders of Women in Government today, as I am looking at their website, are still those big ones listed above and others in the for-profit health care fields.

    What comes next will be articles tying Planned Parenthood to the makers of Gardasil, and how the science behind the HPV vaccine is not only faulty, but in some ways corrupted. The influence of these private for-profit drug makers to ruin scientists lives is also a big part of the story coming up (Biologist Peter Duesberg was all but banished from science for his views on HIV)  The next part of the series will look at the cases of young girls damaged and killed and whose cases are being highlighted in documentaries and added to class action and personal liability cases against Merck and GSK.

    Part one of the series over at Hormones Matter & DV was getting the reader’s feet wet effort: Gardasil and the American Bald Eagle.  What I am hoping to elicit from this second part is reader’s feedback on the collusion of marketing and science. How do readers see that interplay affecting what they eat, consume, use and purchase? How can a citizen get a handle on all the complicated findings and PR spin and manufactured consent the for-profit world enlists as their marketing schemes?

    GMOs, Genetic Engineering, Recombinant Drugs, Vaccines

    I end with a lament, since I opened this piece around my background researching and writing about mostly environmental and social justice issues (certainly forced vaccinations in USA and other countries is a social injustice issue). I have many friends and sources in the arena of GMO — genetically modified (engineered) organisms and that giant, Monsanto. In fact, Gardasil is a genetically-engineered virus. The news today exploded with mainstream media touting a new study “clearing” Round-up, also known as glyphosate, of any definitive cancer-causing links.

    Of course, this one study is not the final word on cancer and Round-up. One study, versus thousands linking Round-up to all sorts of problems in humans and animals. But then Monsanto is a giant with connected politicians, Supreme Court Justices and PR firms. Monsanto and others like Bayer subsidize entire university programs and departments. Autism and Round-up? HereGlyphosate in vaccines?

    It all ties together, this better living through chemistry-plastics-GE drugs. Even Stephen Hawkins is weighing in on this Genetic Engineering of vaccines.

    My friend, who is now deceased, Mae-Wan Ho, submitted to an interview by me a few years ago, and this passage from it elegantly discusses the inherent dangers of GMOs:

    The new genetics, for example, is enchanting; it is completely different from the old obsolete genetics that motivated genetic engineering and genetic modification. It has turned conventional genetics upside down. Instead of a one-way flow of information from DNA (the genetic material) to traits (biological function) to the environment, there is a circular feedback from the environment and the organisms’ experience that marks out which genes are to be expressed or not, even changing the genes themselves. I call this natural genetic modification. It is an intricate molecular dance of life that is essential for survival. Natural genetic modification is done with finesse and precision by the organisms themselves, without damaging the genome. In contrast, artificial genetic modification done in the laboratory by genetic engineers is crude, imprecise, uncontrollable, and ends up scrambling and damaging the genome with totally unpredictable effects on safety. It also interferes inevitably with the natural genetic modification process, and that is ultimately why artificial genetic modification is inherently hazardous.

    Some writers say “vaccines are the Third Rail for writers. Otherwise totally progressive sites have drunk the Pharma Kool-Aid and [shut down] journalists for simply suggesting that vaccines are neither all safe or all unsafe! Imagine!” (a recent email from a writer answering my questions, preferring to stay anonymous).

    Add to my dilemma as a white male, Marxist, 60, dare to complain about anything to do with Planned Parenthood, even this bizarre personal attack on me, as Planned Parenthood Seattle ended up pressuring the former non-profit I worked for to sack me because of my recalcitrance, aggressiveness and non-compliance of a “zeig heil” to all vaccines, manufactured and distributed (sold) by Merck and GlaxSmithKline, not exactly the angels in Big Pharma.

    I’ve got compatriots, luckily, at DV, in the writing and voice of Martha Rosenberg

    Of course there are many reasons women may veto the vaccine for themselves or their children. Even though the vaccine is nearly 100 percent effective in preventing precancerous cervical lesions and protects against the two HPV strains that cause 70 percent of cervical cancers and 90 percent of genital warts, it isn’t effective against all HPV strains. It is also not more effective against cervical cancer than a Pap smear and even when it does work, may require a booster. Nor do researchers know how long protection lasts.

    The HPV vaccine is also the most expensive of all recommended vaccines at $359.25 for all three doses says Pew Research.

    And then there’s the morality issue.

    “I was greatly offended that Merck suggest I vaccinate my nine-year-old daughter against an STD,” says Kelley Watson, a mother of two in the Chicago suburb of Oak Park. “Especially insulting to me was that there was never any mention of HPV as being a sexually transmitted disease. It was presented as something women can contract through tampons or nylon stockings — as if men played no part.”

    Actually, men’s part in transmitting HPV is beginning to be acknowledged. Last year FDA also cleared the vaccine for boys, in whom the virus can cause genital warts and anal cancer. Even when an individual declines vaccination, his or her chances of infection are lessened as more people, both men and women, vaccinate — a concept called herd immunity.

    Thanks to intrepid and thick-skinned writers like Rosenberg, the public might have a chance at getting real news about pharmaceuticals and all the other snake oil and PT Barnum shell games Big For-Profit Medicine pedals. I’ll attempt to be part of that phalanx of writers skeptical of capitalism’s parasitic infestation of things that should not be given to millionaires, billionaires and their financial vultures for profits and rip-offs — education, health, social security, energy, the commons, banking, and community rights to public health, safety and protection. Add the incarceration complex to the mix, and then also think about how infected farming, food, transportation, and telecommunications and media have become through the perversions of big capital and bigger profit schemes of the financial hit men (and women).

    Just a year ago, here, Martha’s Counterpunch piece:

    They Aren’t All Safe: Pharma is Willing to Look “Unscientific” to Sell Vaccines

    Pharma is unwise to cast such parents, of whom there are many, as “nuts.” The degeneration of their child is not their imagination. Also, there is no defensible reason for vaccines to be given all at once to a child, which many say heightens risks. Administering clusters of vaccines–once not given to children–has been called a major, new profit center for pediatricians.

    But anti-vaccination activists should also not be absolutist. Would anyone refuse a rabies vaccine after being bitten by a rabid raccoon? A tetanus shot after a serious wound? Would responsible parents deny their child a whooping cough or polio vaccine?

    Like all drugs aggressively marketed these days, patients and parents need to do their own research and weigh benefits and risks—never forgetting Pharma’s spotty safety record.

    Seems like sanity to me, as a parent, patient and press member!

    Harvey Weinstein is Only the Tip of the Iceberg: What Could Be Done?

    Rats fleeing a sinking ship – the ship of white male privilege

    The floodgates have opened. All the disgusting, depraved details are surfacing. Now the “public” is learning what the majority of us already knew – that men of power have been sexually abusing and harassing women for generations. It was simply the norm. Most women have experienced it in one form or another. Every morning we get up to see another report from victims of powerful men in publishing, media, government and finance. Even U.S. presidents, Supreme Court Justices, Amazon executives and celebrity chefs have been outed. A USA Gymnastics doctor has been accused of and is in prison for molesting at least 100 young women gymnasts, some as young as 13 years old. The list seems endless. So no, this is not a secret. It’s simply that now, for yet unexplained reasons about the timing, the volcano has erupted. Hopefully, there’s no going back.

    Sexual assault and harassment have always been the norm

    Years ago my boss tried to grab and kiss me in my office and in the elevator, actually lunging at me in the elevator. I was a cute, mini-skirted, single mother finishing up my bachelor’s degree and an area manager for a public relations company. He was a decades-older, overweight, bald, married regional senior manager. How did we women handle this type of harassment back in the 70’s? We laughed it off – if we could. At least that’s what I did. My response was to laugh, slip away (which I could because I was much more nimble and faster than he was) and say, “Now George, you have to behave yourself”! That was not the first time I had been harassed and it sure wasn’t the last time. Many women were not as lucky as I was. When I joined the thousands of women posting #MeToo on Facebook, I was saddened and shocked to see how many of my friends, relatives, co-workers, even my own daughter were in those numbers. In fact, I can’t think of a single woman I know who has not posted #MeToo.

    There’s a temptation to think that now the stories are coming so fast and furiously, with so many men being implicated, surely, something will be done. The hope is that men who have, and would, treat women this way will now be scared into behaving themselves. However, many men still think this is a tempest in a teapot. George Bush Sr. thought his sexual harassment antics were all pretty much a joke, as did his wife, Barbara. Many people have known about the kinds of perverted sexual abuse men, particularly powerful men, have used against women all along. Other men have either witnessed it or heard rumors of it. Maybe they didn’t like it, but they didn’t take steps to try to stop it. Many women experienced it themselves, heard stories and rumors or even witnessed it. Yet they did nothing. How can we explain this? Are these people all cowards, only concerned with their own lives and job security?

    The power of group complicity

    As Wilhelm Reich pointed out many years ago in his book, The Mass Psychology of Fascism, there would be no Hitlers unless there wasn’t a little bit of Hitler in a whole lot of people. This means that nothing happens without the active or passive consent of most people. Typically, in trying to explain group problems at work, people either blame the leaders or they blame individuals with obnoxious personalities. Both explanations are individualist because they ignore the complicity of most people who do nothing. And this “doing nothing” is much more powerful than either leaders or obnoxious personalities are. Doing nothing is not neutral. Doing nothing in groups contributes to whatever happens, pro or con. The reasons men and women are complicit in groups is no different than the reasons people put up with other forms of abuse. They have become habituated because it happens gradually and they become desensitized. They are aware of it but they feel entrapped. This means they’ve invested time, effort and energy into an organization and the risks are too high. They are aware of the harassment but they hope it will go away. They don’t know what the alternatives are. There are other reasons, I’m sure, but you get the picture.

    Why haven’t women fought back?

    Women who have tried to fight back have always done it as individuals, making it much easier for them to be dismissed or targeted themselves as money-grubbers or attention-seekers. We have not fought back because many of us have been ashamed, believing that somehow the harassment or assault was our fault. This is frequently supported by attacks against the victims by shaming, name-calling and not being believed. We have also not fought back because, under the capitalist system, women have always been considered second-class citizens. This institutional inequality is organized from above, through traditional family roles, in the legal system as well as in other social structures. The hierarchy that produces positions of power, usually occupied by men, is a set-up for all types of abuse.

    There are plenty of suggestions in the news now as to what to do if we, as women, are assaulted or harassed. As Breanna Stewart, professional basketball player for the Seattle Storm of the WNBA suggests: “If you are being assaulted, tell somebody. If that person doesn’t believe you, tell somebody else. A parent, a family member, a teacher, a coach, a friend’s parent. Help is there.”

    I say – that is not enough. It’s not enough to expect women, on their own, to brave the potential of being ignored, placated, accused or have their careers put in jeopardy.

    Stronger together

    Sexual harassment and abuse by men in positions of power will not stop until there is an organization formed to fight this, in the courts and in mainstream and social media.

    I recently read an article by Jonathan Cook in Dissident Voice titled, Harvey Weinstein and the Politics of Hollywood, in which he advocated for forming a women’s union for Hollywood actresses. This union would be open to all actresses, including those who are just getting started. Mr. Cook also suggests that if the famous actresses who are now coming forward with their own stories of harassment and assault would join together to establish, fund and promote such a union, they would be doing a much greater service for women actors than by simply telling about their own assault. He writes about how much safer it would be for women to have this problem addressed within a union. As we’ve seen, it’s been fairly easy for powerful men to dismiss single instances of assault by threatening or bribing the women. If it does become public, they often simply deny it, like Bill Cosby, everybody’s favorite Dad, did. Quoting Mr. Cook:

    They could set up a union, a sort of women’s Equity, that would allow actresses, in private, to register incidents of exploitation and sexual assault with the union, naming those who committed the assault and their modus operandi. By creating such a database, the union and its lawyers would be able to identify serial assaults and discover patterns of behavior. The victims could then be encouraged to come forward in a group action, knowing that they would not be facing the Hollywood elite on their own. The union would redress, at least in part, the power of these male producers and directors. They, in turn, would grow more fearful of exposure.

    I applaud his concept and propose taking it a step further.

    Women’s Solidarity Network

    Consider an organization like Seattle Solidarity Network. This is an all-volunteer, grassroots organization where the members show up in groups at the site to help people fight against landlords, bosses and others who are more powerful than they. Why not establish a women’s network along these lines? Remember Occupy? It only took a short time before there were Occupy movements in cities in the United States, and within weeks, all over the world. There is no reason why sexual harassment networks could not catch fire in U.S. major cities just as Occupy did.

    The national network – let’s simply call it The Women’s Solidarity Network – would provide legal aid for groups of women who were being sexually harassed or assaulted in the workplace. But they could do much more than that! They could educate women about their rights and offer practical solutions to fight this behavior. All the women who have wealth, actresses and recognized personalities, and are now speaking out about their own experiences with work-place abuse could initially fund this network. Feminist lawyers and groups like the ACLU and Southern Poverty Law Center could work with them. This type of support would be far more valuable than simply publicly telling their stories, as powerful as that act is.

    Chapters of these sexual harassment networks could be formed all over the country using some of the following tactics and support:

    • Face to face settings:
      • Provide legal aid for individuals and groups in their claims against abuse;
      • Educate women about their legal rights and best ways to confront abuse in the workplace;
      • Groups of women could show up to protest at work sites that have been accused of abuse; and,
      • Form emotional support groups for women who are going through the fall-out from abuse.
    • Virtual settings:
      • Bombard social media with complaints about organizations and companies that are harboring abusers;
      • Bombard HR departments with phone calls demanding they take action against claims of harassment or abuse; and,
      • Share ideas with each other through private online groups for defending and taking action against sexual predators in the workplace.

    What is to be done?

    Until, and unless, women – and supportive men – join forces to create a formal organization to protect us from these types of assaults, this outrage will soon fade away. Many men who have been accused for years, and protected by large institutions, have faded from public scrutiny and outrage. Since the capitalist system is designed to foster hierarchies, there will always be a need for organizational support for the millions of women who are lower in that hierarchy. The need is greatest for younger women, women of color, working class women and those just starting out in their work-lives. If all these celebrity women who are telling their personal stories of attack and harassment would join together to fund and support this organization, the good they are doing would be multiplied ten-fold.

    Anyone with ideas or knowledge of organizations that are already doing something like this, inside or outside of the US, please put this information in the Leave a Reply section. It’s time to take group action – we’re stronger together!

    Good Guys and Bad Guys

    I am not as abusive as Harvey Weinstein, nor as narcissistic as Bill O’Reilly. I’m more respectful to women than Donald Trump, and not as sleazy as Anthony Weiner.

    Judged by the standards set by these public reprobates, most of the rest of us men appear almost saintly, and therein lies a danger. The public disclosure of these men’s behavior—from the routinely offensive to the occasionally criminal—is a good thing, and all those who have been harassed and raped should continue to speak out.

    But we should not let the most egregious cases derail the analysis of how a wide range of men’s intrusive and abusive sexual behaviors against women (as well as against girls, boys, and vulnerable men) are so woven into the everyday fabric of life in a patriarchal society that the intrusion and abuse is often invisible to men.

    Pause for the required disclaimer: Not all men are rapists. To acknowledge that sexuality in a culture of institutionalized male dominance (a useful shorthand definition of patriarchy) takes place within a larger framework of male domination/female subordination is not to accuse all men of rape.

    Another required disclaimer: Not all sex in patriarchy is rape. To take seriously a feminist critique of patriarchy and men’s violence is not to suggest that intimate relationships can never reflect mutuality and equality.

    But we shouldn’t ignore how we men are trained to understand ourselves and to view women. In a society in which masculinity is routinely understood as the ability to dominate (think about how the phrase “be a man” is usually a challenge to assert control) and in which sexuality is defined as the pleasure that men obtain from women (think about what men mean by the question “did you get any?”), we might want to do more than denounce the behavior of the most abusive men and ask about how all boys and men are socialized into that masculinity and sexuality.

    So, not all men are rapists. Not all sex is rape. The majority of men do not rape. Many couples have loving sexual relationships. But consider these other categories:

    • Men who do not rape but would be willing to rape if they were sure they would not be punished.
    • Men who do not rape but will not intervene when another man rapes.
    • Men who do not rape but buy sex from women and believe that payment gives them the right to do as they please.
    • Men who do not rape but are sexually stimulated by pornography featuring women in situations that depict rape-like acts.
    • Men who do not rape but find the idea of rape sexually arousing.
    • Men who do not rape but whose sexual arousal depends on feeling dominant and having power over a woman.

    I shouldn’t need to repeat myself, but just in case: These men are not rapists. But should we take comfort in the fact that the men in these categories are not, in legal terms, guilty of rape? Are we advancing the cause of ending men’s violence against women by focusing only on the acts legally defined as rape?

    We have to let go of a comforting illusion—that there is some bright line between men who rape and men who don’t rape, between the bad guys and the good guys. That doesn’t mean all guys are bad, or that we can’t distinguish between levels of bad behavior. It means that if we want to end men’s violence against women we have to acknowledge the effects of patriarchal socialization, and such critical self-reflection is rarely a pleasant task, individually or collectively.

    I will be happy if Weinstein goes to jail and if O’Reilly is never allowed back on television. I will be happy if women win lawsuits against Trump and if I never read another news story about Weiner.

    But just as important as the consequences for individuals, the cascading stories of routine abuse should lead both conservatives and liberals to embrace a radical feminist analysis of men’s violence against women and a critique of the sexual-exploitation industries (prostitution, pornography, stripping).

    Does the culture avoid radical feminist critiques of this violence and exploitation out of fear of where such critical self-reflection leads—the recognition that the routine nature of sexual assault and harassment is a product of our culture’s taken-for-granted assumptions about the sex/gender system and patriarchal sexuality?

    If we decide not to talk about patriarchy because it’s too challenging, then let’s stop pretending we are going to stop sexual violence and harassment, and recognize that, at best, all we can do is manage the problem. If we can’t talk about patriarchy—if we can’t face the myriad ways that we men are socialized to seek domination in sexuality and everyday life—then let’s admit that we are giving up on the goal of a world without rape and harassment.