Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Rightweeeeeeng Roundup: Townhall Edition

For this week's edition, I ventured over to the rightwing hellmouth that is Townhall.com. It's always fun times over there, folks.

1. Minor Details

Phyllis Schlafly, who I previously wrote about here, starts us off with an article called "Title IX Tied Our Hands At the Olympics" in which she blames our "lack" of competitiveness in China to, dun-dun-dun, Title IX and those trusty scapegoats teh feminists. Of Title IX "quotas" that supposedly eliminate men's sports, Schlafly writes, "The effect of this injustice hit us hard in Beijing."

What's that you say, dear readers?

Didn't we win the total medal count?

Why yes. Yes we did, actually. We won the Olympics. Go us.

That's why I think Schlafly is a little confused.

In what universe is a country's "hands tied" win it wins the Olympics, earns 110 out of 958 possible medals, and in which only two other countries remotely came close to this count (China- 100, Russia- 72)?

If I were a cynical person I'd say that Schlafly is trying to make a debate about Title IX relevant again by using the Olympics as a platform to spew anti-Title IX propaganda. In which case I'd say "Sorry Phyl, Title IX's not going away. Get over it." Yet, her desperation to demonize Title IX is topped only by her dishonesty. Of men's sports being eliminated she writes,

"The Americans who won in Beijing typically did so in spite of Title IX. Michael Phelps, who won eight gold medals (about one-fourth of all U.S. gold medals), trained privately and didn't compete on a college team."

Schlafly's implication is clear: Michael Phelps trained privately and didn't compete in college because Title IX eliminated his college team! Of course, the real reason Phelps doesn't compete on his college team is because he lost his amateur status and is, therefore, ineligible for his college team under NCAA guidelines. In the real world, as opposed to Schlafly's invented universe, Phelps served as an assistant coach for the University of Michigan which does, actually, have a men's swimming team and would, undoubtedly, be thrilled to have him join it if he were eligible. You think Townhall or Schlafly will so enlighten their readers of that little tidbit? Nope. Me neither.

(Oooh. And I'm sure Phyl would hate this, but speaking of those pesky women in the Olympics, Dorothy Surrenders has a delicious roundup of how some out lesbian athletes fared in Beijing. *Sigh*.... Um, I mean, back to serious important things.)

Where was I? Oh yes. Secondly, let's just play make-believe and go along with Schlafly's little theory. Let's say Michael Phelps didn't get to swim in college because of Title IX. Let's pretend the reason he had to train privately was because Title IX eliminated his swim team. Okay...... He still went on to win a record 8. fucking. gold. medals. anyway. That sort of evidence kind of entirely counters one's arguments that Title IX "tied" our hands in the Olympics or that Michael Phelps almost didn't win his gold medals because of stupid dumb cumbersome Title IX.

So, the gold-medal question is whether Phyllis Schlafly is a liar or just an ignorant bleeting woman with a platform? Surely, Schlafly isn't just leeching onto an American hero in order to advance her anti-feminist jihad, right?

2. A Fun Quiz

Conservative commentator Dennis Prager has created an interesting litmus test as to whether a person is a liberal or conservative. It's easy. Gauge your response to Prager's scenario in which the owner of a business discovers someone painting graffiti on his business:

"Do you think that this guy should have shot these people spray painting graffiti on his shop?"

If you believe that maiming (but not killing) someone writing graffiti on your property is an acceptable response, as Prager does, you're a conservative. If not, you're a liberal.

It really is that simple.

Prager spends the bulk of his article explaining why it is justifiable for civilians to shoot "taggers." And he also takes Andrew Sullivan to task for presenting such an opinion as though such a position is self-evidently wrong. Well, I don't think Prager's opinion is self-evidently "wrong" per se. I just think it's an extremely exaggerated and fearful response. My main issue with vigilante Batmen shooting "taggers" is that the punishment does not fit the crime. Under our rule of law, property crimes generally do not warrant the infliction of bodily harm as punishment.

Yet Prager believes that graffiti is oh so much more than a mere property crime. For, "the moment one sees graffiti, one knows one has entered a largely lawless and violent environment where thugs terrorize innocents" and thus, a property owner is entitled to shoot the "thug." Am I reading this right? Is Prager really saying that "taggers" deserve to be shot by civilians because they're probably violent criminals anyway? Okay, but still. We can't go shooting "taggers" just because we think they're probably also violent criminals. We have pesky issues like due process and trials and presumptions of innocence with respect to those other crimes. To suggest that "taggers" don't deserve these protections is really sort of radical.

Why then, is this sort of vigilantism justified, under Prager's view? Graffiti, he says, is "...an assault on society, perpetrated by pathologically narcissistic lowlifes bent on undermining the foundations of higher civilization."


After reading that, it hit me. Is there any social phenomena disliked by rightwingers that does not "undermine the foundations of higher civilization?"

I mean seriously. Why aren't extreme rightwingers able to just say "you know, graffiti is wrong," something most of us could agree with, without raising it to some sort of ridiculous apocaplyptic level? I think many of them truly believe that they are the last guardians of imminent social collapse. Thus, I created a little litmus test of my own. The FUHC Test- Foundation Undermining of Higher Civilization Test:

Recognizing that the world is not always black and white, a rightwinger's extremity exists along a gradation from 1 to 20 depending precisely upon how many of the following phenomena s/he, not just disagrees with, but sincerely believes "undermine the foundations of higher civilization": Gay Marriage, Pornography, Abortion, Birth Control, Euthanasia, Teletubbies, Harry Potter, Non-Christian Faiths, Feminism, Women's Right to Vote, Veganism, Inter-Racial Marriage, Sex Outside of Marriage, Sex for Fun, Masturbation, Gay Sex, Title IX, Affirmative Action, and Graffiti.

But seriously, I feel small tingly bits of compassion for those who are so extremely paranoid and fearful that the only way they know how to construct arguments is by using such extreme Armageddon-language. Perhaps society will always have these Chicken Littles forever squawking that the end is nigh and that the world is black and white and doom and gloom and on the verge of imminent collapse. The refrain of Great Harm is a tired one, after all. Ultimately, upon hearing someone react so disproportionately to stimuli he disagrees with, it is hard to take that person seriously.

If Dennis Prager could get a grip and say "You know, graffiti is wrong because it damages other people's property" we could talk. But to say that all of those who write graffiti are "bent on undermining higher civilization" is bordering on the delusional. I'm sorry, but it really is. And I don't blame Andrew Sullivan one bit for not seriously engaging the argument.

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