Keeping Us Honest

It's fair to criticize Michael Moore for Akin-style rants.

By Chez Paziena: Yesterday evening I popped up a quickie post over at my blog, Deus Ex Malcontent, that generated quite a bit of push-back. (For the record, it’s always the minor brain droppings, as Carlin used to say, fired off on a whim, that seem to earn me the most feedback, outrage, rebuke, what-have-you.) Basically what I said is that the right doesn’t hold an absolute monopoly on making the sickening claim that not all rape is created equal and, with all the well-deserved fury being aimed at Todd Akin, it’s worth mentioning in the interest of intellectual honesty that Michael Moore has parsed the concept of rape in his defense of pious asshole Julian Assange.

What led me to draw the comparison wasn’t simply that I felt, out of the blue, like being phony-fair and bringing up one long-since-past example from the left to put up against the firestorm the right was drawing and regularly draws on women’s issues; it was because Moore and fellow filmmaker and indulger in way-far-out politics Oliver Stone penned a long-winded and indignant op-ed in Monday’s New York Times in which they once again made the argument that the rape case against Assange amounted, essentially, to an attempt to quash the Wikileaks founder’s right to free speech. They wrote it in response to Assange’s self-serving, Evita-like address from the balcony of the Ecuadorian embassy in London on Sunday in which he blasted the United States, demanding that it end its “witch hunt” against the site and guy who’s spent the past couple of years gleefully spilling its classified information out into the ether.

You can probably guess what happened a few minutes after I hit the “Publish Post” button and what continued for the next couple of hours.

The response to my little slam against Moore, Stone and Assange was swift and ferocious. Via Facebook and e-mail, I was raked over the coals pretty relentlessly for daring to specifically correlate Michael Moore to Todd Akin, the argument of my detractors being that I had set up the dreaded false-equivalence. A number of people, including my friend, podcast partner and fellow Banter-ite Bob Cesca, felt that I was being a liberal self-defeatist and that I failed to see how Moore, as a guy who’s not in a position to directly affect public policy, was a poor comparison to someone like Todd Akin, who is. Also, according to my critics, there’s the fact that Moore is an outlier who isn’t thoroughly representative of the overall opinion of the left, as Akin’s views are of the right. All of this is, of course, true — but that’s not really the point and it’s not why I felt it was important to call Moore out for his views while continuing to call out Akin for his.

Here’s the thing: It’s not about the kind of phony objectivity we’re regularly fed from various mainstream news organizations, which often really does amount to a false-equivalence hastily and clumsily assembled for the sake of appearing fair. It’s also not about navel gazing or being self-defeatist, particularly since I go out of my way to not thoroughly align myself with any political camp and absolutely have no allegiance to any one party, certainly not the kind of blind faith that would lead me to ignore malfeasance of the variety of which I accuse my political adversaries. What it’s about is attempting to hold everyone accountable in the same manner, trying as best I can not to be hypocritical and, from a strategic standpoint, to make sure that the aforementioned adversaries don’t have a weapon to use against me. It’s about, I hope at least, intellectual honesty — which I think is more important than party loyalty. When you harshly criticize your opponent while deliberately overlooking the same sentiment coming from within your own ranks, even if that sentiment isn’t anywhere near as endemic or rampant, then your criticism becomes worthless.

Admittedly, the only person who thinks Michael Moore is as powerful as Todd Akin is Michael Moore, but there’s no denying that he’s still an icon to many on the left and he’s still given a platform by many of the same left-leaning media outlets that are currently trashing Akin. With that in mind, I think it’s entirely fair to hold Moore to the same standard you’d hold Akin, Ryan and their unholy ilk. There’s no doubt that Moore isn’t representative of the entire center-left mindset the way Akin is of his party’s views, but I don’t think that it’s always necessary to state as much when you’re simply making the claim that there are in fact those on the left who’ve made the same basic statements about the subject of rape as those on the right. I never said that there were an equal number of people on either side making like-minded claims — only that there existed on the left someone who said the same awful things that everyone was currently losing their minds at Todd Akin over. I shouldn’t have to pen a flowery disclaimer making it clear that I’m not trying to draw a direct correlation.

A couple of weeks ago, an LGBT activist fired a handgun in the lobby of the Family Research Council headquarters in Washington, DC. Floyd Corkins appears to have left no doubt as to why he shot a security guard, wounding the man; he reportedly had 15 Chick-fil-A bags in his backpack and detested the FRC’s ongoing campaign against gays and lesbians in this country. I shouldn’t have to say that I’m as disgusted by the Family Research Council as anyone; I can’t stand who they are and what they do. But it’s interesting how few people on the left were willing to consider how our toxic political climate may have influenced Corkins to do what he did. Many, including myself, are quick to assign blame to the incendiary rhetoric on the right whenever some terrified hyper-conservative nutjob uses a gun to get his political point across; with that in mind, it’s fair to at least acknowledge the possibility that our discourse has become so damn noxious that unstable people are being inspired to commit all kinds of insane acts out of anger, fear, whatever.

Now here’s where I will offer a disclaimer: No, of course the violent rhetoric and violent action we’ve heard and seen on the left is nowhere near what we’ve heard and seen on the right. One guy, one incident, doesn’t even compare to the eliminationism we’ve seen coming from across the aisle over the past few years — with political leaders actually calling for “2nd Amendment remedies,” guys like Glenn Beck and Bill O’Reilly demonizing left-leaning organizations and abortion doctors until their mindless acolytes feel that it’s their duty as God-fearing Americans to take action, and crazies bringing guns to events where the President of the United States is speaking. There’s a direct, 1:1 correlation between that kind of violent rhetoric and the resulting violent action, when it happens. To deny it is politically motivated nonsense. The mouthpieces on the right love to paint far-right gunmen, like the one behind the Sikh temple shooting in Milwaukee or the one who admitted to being inspired by Glenn Beck when he got into a gun battle with the California Highway Patrol, as being lone nuts under the influence of no one. This is, of course, horseshit. But it’s fascinating, though not the least bit surprising, how far those same mouthpieces were willing to go — how many hypocritical pretzels they twisted themselves into — to claim that the outrage of the left was the catalyst for Corkins’s actions. Family Research Council President Tony Perkins personally blamed the Southern Poverty Law Center for designating the FRC a hate group. Needless to say, he was full of crap because you don’t get to have it both ways; you can’t call the gunmen who espouse your beliefs lone wolves and the ones who espouse your opponents’ puppets of a larger conspiracy.

And that was the main reason I even bothered to broach the subject of Michael Moore — because if you don’t apply your indignation about certain subjects equally and hold everyone to the same standard, there’s no reason for anyone to listen to a damn thing you have to say. Again, Moore isn’t the same as Akin — of course not. There are also far fewer Michael Moores within the center-left culture than there are Akins on the right these days. But when someone on one side says essentially the same awful thing that someone on the other side is being rightly castigated for, there’s nothing wrong with mentioning it. Not harping on it obsessively — mentioning it, and pointing out that you would hope others would be willing to do the same in an effort to keep their house clean.

It’s not phony fair. It’s actually fair. More than that, it’s right.

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