I love code words. How else can I hate in public
Let's talk about code words for a while.
When I had saw that Amy Sullivan had quoted a WSJ piece using the phrase "cultural elite" I went batshit. Now, I think Sullivan is a person of good intentions. I radically disagree with her views, but as I said, I do not think the use of this slur, and that is what it is, was intentional, in either the original piece or her quoting them. Her intent was misguided, but honest, in trying to stimulate a debate on values.
Now, Sullivan is really pissed at me, which is fine, because I am really, really pissed at her. Why? Because that phrase "cultural elite" is a code word. I'm sorry she didn't pick up on it, and some of my language may not have been clear, but my anger remains, Any adult knows that when people attack "Hollywood", we know what they mean. It's a shorthand reference to the idea that the Jews control the media. In Europe, it was the banks. In post-Holocaust, post-communist Poland, the first things which sprouted up were posters blaming the Jews for Polish economic problems. The fact that most Polish Jews who survived, fled to Israel and the US after a 1946 pogrom meant nothing. But in modern day America: when people attack "Hollywood", they mean the Jews.
Now, this doesn't mean that people sick of gangsta rap or pointlessly violent movies are reading the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, but even in black America, these attacks often come with a healthy dose of subtle Jew hatred. You haven't lived until you hear Louis Farrakhan talk about Jew-lery. And if you hit a few street booksellers, between Message to the Blackman and the Autobiography of Malcom X, the Protocols will pop up, with a sometimes amazingly enthusiastic endorsement.
But here's the thing: to black people, in New York, at least, Jew is used to describe all white people. When someone talks about the "Jews" not letting people build, they mean white people. Now, to some folks, they really don't like Jews, but open bigotry doesn't go very far. Black people usually don't spend their day talking about the evils of whites, just like white people don't do the same about blacks.
But why am I pissed at Sullivan?
Because she should know better. The people behind the censor Hollywood movement are old-fashioned bigots. They often have roots in the White Citizens Councils and have a trail of racist and anti-Semitic writing behind them, like Pat Buchanan and William Donahue. Also, as a reasonably intelligent woman, she should know the entire conservative movement is based on such divisive phrases and terms. They don't want an honest debate on values, they just want their values to triumph over everyone elses.
Her excuse which is that she merely quoted this doesn't wash with me. If I "merely quoted" someone saying gays were pedophiles and didn't comment on it, I don't think our gay readers would let that slip. When people tried that argument with the Catholic Church, it was ripped apart. I don't think there was malice here, I honestly don't, but I don't think it's all that intellectually honest to say "I just wanted to start a discussion". Because you don't have to dig very hard to link that sentiment to outright anti-semitism, and while I do not think that was her intent, letting the phrase "cultural elite:" just hang there is immoral.
This doesn't mean Sullivan is wrong to want to have the discussion, but the way it's framed, it's just not possible. Bill Donahue and Pat Buchanan gave the game away. The Southern Baptist convention is serious in wanting to convert Jews. And they are among the people screaming the loudest about Hollywood. Trying to argue values on their terms is a trap, because the outcome always leads to attack the "cultural elite" and they don't mean Gore Vidal and Thomas Pynchon. And there is no middle ground. They will do what Wal-Mart did, hide the SI swimsuit issue while having no problems with Guns and Ammo.
From "pro-life" to talk about Dred Scott to "vouchers", modern American conservatism panders to bigotry without ever saying so openly. It's not just the radical right, but they have taken the ball and run hard with it. They hide in plain site. It started with Reagan's use of the words "welfare queens", accompanied with the depiction of a few black con artists. Lost in the debate was the fact that the average AFDC recipient was a singe white woman. Welfare gained a black face, which was then used to attack the program with working class whites. This attack played into the perception that blacks were getting ahead over whites, when every statistic showed the opposite.
Charles Murray had the cover of the supposedly "liberal" New Republic to launch into a "discussion" on race which could have been lifted from Theodore Bilbo's Segregation or Mongrelization. Filled with racist canards geneticists viewed with disdain and hoary old myths like penis size comparison, this racist tome was given respectability. The Bell Curve was a sea of words to say niggers were born stupid and will stay that way.
The radical right uses code words to express their goals. Take vouchers. While they use blacks as cover, anyone who looks at the stats will see who would benefit the most: all-white Christian schools. They don't say they want to defund public education and end integration. Because code words are wonderful cover and can suck in the unsuspecting. Well meaning people repeat their coded arguments without seeing the deeper meaning.
Take the current debate about pharmacists "religious choice". Now, on the surface, this sounds fine. No one should be forced to violate their religious beliefs. John Kerry got sucked right into this code word argument. But what it really is an attack on Griswold, which was the case which created the right to have contraception. Condoms had been sold as a disease prevention device, but the pill, which was designed to prevent pregnancy, was a very different matter.
While the right has been quite vocal about abortion, their campaign against birth control has been a stealth one. They rarely talk about their plans to eliminate birth control, but it's as much a part of the "right to life" movement as their war against abortion. Now, pharmacists are deciding on their own to not fill birth control prescriptions. Married women, wanting to control the size of their families are finding pharmacists who will not fill their scripts for the pill.
This is no more about religion than bombing clinics. It's a concerted attack on reproductive freedom.
Texas has 254 counties. You can get an abortion in six of them.
This stealth attack on contraception is seeking to do the same thing, to limit the availability of birth control for women.
The judge who decided the Schiavo case was forced to leave his church because the pastor didn't like the way he ruled. How many small town pharmacists can withstand the social pressure to continue to fill prescriptions for birth control? The social pressure will explode once this is permitted.
This is the power of code words. No one will say that they don't like contraception, they will hide behind the words "religious choice". Now, well meaning people don't see the intent of these ideas and think this is a reasonable discussion when it is anything but.
Why am I so sensitive to this? Because when you have teachers say to your face you should go back from where you came from or that you might be comfortable "elsewhere", code words sting just like open racial insults, but even worse, because they come guised as well-meaning advice and not in the racist contempt which dripped from them.
And I cannot tell you how many times I have heard, honest, well-meaning people use these same code words as excuses for patronizing or demanding blacks. It's not an experience white people have, but non-whites live with daily. You can be a fourth generation Asian American and people will comment you on how well you speak English. Despite that you're the third generation in your family to have a college degree. They don't mean anything evil by it, except that they are saying you are a lesser American.
Code words are powerful, they carry meaning which seems innocuous in plain site, but have dark and foreboding undercurrents. Yet, because their true intent is hidden, people use them without thinking or concern.
Now, I'm not Jewish, but I'm not stupid either. When Bill Donahue talks about Jews and anal sex, like he's never heard of the antics of Catholic School Girls, he's not talking about sex, but the other, those who are unlike us. He demonizes "secular" Jews because no one calls him an anti-semite to his face. In fact, bringing up the argument people often ridicule you as if you are seeing ghosts. When Warren Beatty said the same thing about these attacks in the late '90's, the right laughed it off, said he was crazy, despite the history of such attacks. But he was right, because the same language was used in Stalinist Russia as well as Nazi Germany.
Every attack on culture, every one, has had an undercurrent of anti-semitism. It has in America, in Germany and throughout Europe. Because "culture" is used as a code word for "art we hate". Hitler's degenerate art exhibit of 1937 was a prime example of this.
Now, that doesn't mean everyone making this argument sees that, but the movers and shakers behind this know perfectly well what they mean. Which is why they use phrases like cultural elite and why my teachers used soft words to hide hard meanings.
posted by Steve @ 11:59:00 AM