Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Book Review: Bloodthirsty Bitches and Pious Pimps of Power

After reading the blurb on the back cover of Gerry Spence's Bloodthirsty Bitches and Pious Pimps of Power: The Rise and Risks of the New Conservative Hate Culture, I was extremely eager to read the book. For, in it, Spence makes a compelling case that "conservative hate-mongers: Ann Coulter, Laura Ingraham, Nancy Grace, Bill O'Reilly, Rush Limbaugh, Pat Robertson, and others.... occupy the bully pulpit of the new American hate culture."

In short, Spence validates the disgust with which many of us on the left (and in the middle perhaps) view some of the right's most vocal ranters. A disgust born from the "conservatives are automatically holier and more moral, than liberals" attitude of certain popular conservative spokespersons that in reality is hatred, loathing, and intolerance.


1. Hate Sells

In short, the overarching theme of the book is this:

Americans are angry. The conservative movement taps into this anger by blaming every conceivable social ill on liberals. Implicit in this blame is the message that liberals and everything they stand for are to be hated- and that liberals are not real Americans or real Christians. And, while conservative pundits foster a culture of hate and aggression they enrich themselves and help maintain an unequal status quo. While doing so, they distract the masses from the actual causes of why so many Americans are unhappy. The actual cause being that we live in a greedy hyper-capitalist culture that values corporations more than human beings.

2. Those Beret-Capped Elites Again

Before I delve further into Spence's main arguments, I want to make a quick note of Ann Coulter, Laura Ingraham, and company's distrust of and dislike for so-called "elites." One, does anyone else find it... odd and sorta hypocritical that these very rich, educated, and very influential persons with their own talk shows, radio shows, and books rant about elites? I mean, in what class of Americans do they see themselves as being?

Spence took the same issue I did in my review of Shut Up & Sing with regard to "elite"-hater Laura Ingraham's new self-made definition of "elite": "In short, Laura Ingraham's definition of the elitist is substantially similar to Coulter's definition of the liberal" (27). In Ingraham's world, elite no longer means "persons of a higher class," but is a synonym for liberal- or, those with whom she disagrees.

The favorite target of some in the conservative movement is the so-called "academic elite," which of course really only means intelligent people who disagree with conservatives. Spence writes,

"Professors are a problem, I suppose. Those in universities presumably have been trained to think, and those who think usually do not adopt the numb, dumb creed [Laura Ingraham] espouses. Still, giver her credit. She's in line with the idea of Mao, who hated the intelligentsia as well. But Mao simply took them out, stood them against the wall, and shot them." (32)


Well, Laura can always dream.


3. Anger and Hate

When listening to Ann Coulter, I have often been struck by her rage and, to put it simply, her mean-ness. Her presence and vitriol detract from virtually any "debate" in which she participates. I have to wonder if she says some of what she says for pure shock value or if there's a real human being in there somewhere. And yet, there is a reason she is popular. (Perhaps the same reason many dislike her). Hate sells.

Why does hate sell?

According to Spence, these right-wing talking heads have been directed by their corporate bosses to "seek out stories that cater to angry, middle-aged white men who listen to talk radio and yell at their televisions" (69).

And what stories make the masses angry?

To answer that we must first acknowledge this: The stories that make the masses angry serve as distractions from the fact that conservative pundits "favor the positions of their corporate sponsors" which, sadly, are positions that do not favor the masses.

As Spence writes,

"Do we think that NBC, owned by General Electric, is going to get behind a movement to take corporations off corporate welfare?... Do the corporate media kings censor? CBS refused to run MoveOn.Org's thirty-second spot during the Super Bowl, an add that opposed the war in Iraq. It was too political." (98)


And Spence is right. While "angry men" are yelling at their televisions because they agree with Ann Coulter that John Kerry is a French-looking faggot, they are ignoring real problems. After all, more corporate welfare means less money that goes into our public infrastructure- schools, hospitals, roads, and public transportation to name a few examples. But that's boring, right?

As for why Americans are so angry, as for why there is a "molten lava" of hate running through America, Spence argues that we are all sort of enslaved by corporate interests because (1) Most of us are bound to corporate/government work by necessity; (2) Many of us can be easily replaced by a new (or perhaps cheaper overseas) employee at will; (3) Corporate accountability, from a moral and legal standpoint, has decreased; (4) We prepare our children to work for the corporate/government master; (5) Most workers receive a pittance for retirement; (6) Propaganda is used to make us feel patriotic and loyal to this system; and (7) Out of helplessness, we become apathetic.

These characteristics of our profit-obsessed society causes the masses to be "despondent and depressed" (200). And, what reinforces these characteristics is that the masses are taught that to question the system is unpatriotic, Marxist, or some other pejorative label with scary implications. Inevitably, some Joe Shmoe (like Fitz, perhaps) will come along and ignorantly denounce any critique of the system by slapping the "commie" label on it, even though by ignoring the critique he's actually harming his own self-interest.

Wake up.


3. The Consequences

The consequences of right-wing hate messaging are several.

One, the messaging influences the masses to regularly vote against their own interests. As Spence puts it in the most important paragraph of his book, the masses are fed a "diet of hate to the end that people blindly voted against their own interests" in the 2000 election. For instance:

"Because they hated gays, and voted that single issue, the poisonous side effect of their vote was to elect candidates who were enemies of labor and the poor. Because they hated free-choice advocates, and voted that issue alone, they elected candidates who also fought against fair wages, decent health care, and an environment already staggering under the poisonous sludge or corporate pollution. These hate-mongers, through the dark dynamic of hate, delivered power to the right wing, who thereafter used their power against the fundamental interests of the people who elected them" (121).


I would like any person out there reading this who is anti-gay to re-read the above paragraph. This single-issue mythical "moral values" voter phenomenon is readily apparent, and, I believe, is responsible for the current sorry state of our nation in general and our economy, international reputation, and "culture war" in particular.

The likes of Pat Robertson and company are truly perpetuating a culture of hate that is doing nothing but damage to our nation. But more, it has the potential to incite violence.

Of Nancy Grace, Spence writes:

"Perhaps she does not understand that her own biting cynicism can call to life the same hate-filled but dormant sentiment of her viewers.... I think of how this phenomenon works, that is, how we are influenced by the attitudes of the people we listen to and are expected to respect. If we listen to the love of Billy Graham, the love in us tends to rise to the surface. If we hear the call for love and justice of Martin Luther King Junior, we respond in kind. But anger is the mother of hate. And it is dangerous. I am not comparing her to Hitler. But in a later chapter we shall see how a similar stirring of the people's latent hate led unalterably to the Third Reich." (15)



To quote a cliche, nobody's perfect. We are all guilty of being mean at times and of acting with anger in our hearts instead of love. However, what I find most unfortunate about the likes of Ingraham, Robertson, and company is that they are given a very large platform to influence and change the world for the better. But in the interest of profit, they choose to contribute more hate and negativity into the world and, most unfortunately, influence millions of people while doing so.

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