'Well, it's quite simple, really.' Henry leaned forward and threw another log on the fire. ... 'The trick is to keep doing outrageous things. There's no point in passing some scandalous piece of legislation and then giving everyone time to get worked up about it. You have to get right in there and top it with something even worse, before the public have had a chance to work out what's hit them.'- Henry Winshaw, What a Carve Up! by Jonathan Coe (1995:313)
A frequent guilty pleasure of mine is Sadly, No!, a US-based snark-blog that takes the piss out of American wingnuts (whose 'grassroots' movement actually called themselves teabaggers, then blamed Urban Dictionary for making it sound naughty). The gift, and the trauma, of American wingnuttery, is that there appears to be no bottom to the barrel. It reminds me of the everlasting pint of Guinness in the old gag, and just like that magical pintpot, it spews forward a gusher of foul, sticky, black bile that turns the stomach.
Take, for example, this, in which a man spends 5 pages calling Shirley Sherrod (the woman who lost her job after a wingnut edited a video to make her look like a racist) a liar because she described the racist beating to death of one of her relatives as a 'lynching'.
Plain as day, Ms. Sherrod says that Bobby Hall, a Sherrod relative, was lynched. As she puts it, describing the actions of the 1940s-era Sheriff Claude Screws: "Claude Screws lynched a black man."
This is not true. It did not happen. How do we know this? ... [quotes from Supreme Court judgement on the case] Hall, a young negro about thirty years of age, was handcuffed and taken by car to the courthouse. As Hall alighted from the car at the courthouse square, the three petitioners began beating him with their fists and with a solid-bar blackjack about eight inches long and weighing two pounds. They claimed Hall had reached for a gun and had used insulting language as he alighted from the car. But after Hall, still handcuffed, had been knocked to the ground, they continued to beat him from fifteen to thirty minutes until he was unconscious. Hall was then dragged feet first through the courthouse yard into the jail and thrown upon the floor, dying. An ambulance was called, and Hall was removed to a hospital, where he died within the hour and without regaining consciousness. There was evidence that Screws held a grudge against Hall, and had threatened to "get" him.
Yeah, Jeff, right on! How dare she call that a lynching? What was she thinking? She's like worse than Obamhitler.
But anyway, I thought that was going to be the vilest thing I read all week. But somehow, the EvilGuinness keeps pumping away, delivering new globs of devilfoam to parts you thought it could not possibly reach. Here's a man called Dan Popp.
Let's broaden our campaigns to keep not only our sports stars, but all our rich neighbors in the neighborhood. Let's not discriminate against white CEOs just because they can't jump. Instead of vilifying the rich and forcing them to justify their success, irrationally presuming that it must have come at the price of someone else's failure, let's embrace all those who bring value to our society.
If you're with me on this, please go to the nearest window, stick your head out, and shout:
Rich people, we're sorry. We've committed the sin of envy, the sin of covetousness, and the sin of slander. We have believed the lie and borne false witness against you. Forgive us for the nasty things we said. Please don't go. We want you here. We are all better off with mega-successful neighbors. We're going to tear down the "Keep Out" signs. We're going to stop robbing you of the rewards you've earned, confiscating your wealth as if you were convicted criminals. Please come and do what you do: increase the quality of life for all of us.
Now, I don't know what your reaction to reading that was, but *clever reveal* THAT'S THE POINT. I don't know how to describe my reactions to these pieces. On the one hand, there's a sense of disbelief, as though you've just witnessed someone chowing down on their own chod bin contents and pronouncing it to be as delicious as the finest Haribo. On the other there's a depressing element of 'where do you start' - it's so many kinds of wrong at once, like moving into digs previously occupied by students armed only with half a pack of J-cloths and Happy Shopper polish. It's an unequal struggle, is my point.
It's virtually impossible to comprehensively describe. There needs to be a new set of words to describe the emotional response to reading one of these articles. I've tried to make a list:
- Flaberghastliness (already a compound emotion)
- Slaptacular (yet to make it into the OED, nevertheless a perfectly expressive word)
- Superior, in a somewhat pointless and hard to defend way
In the end though, it just makes me wish I was the sort of person who only made the same mistake once. The lesson is clear: don't get out of the boat. One day, perhaps I will learn this.