Monday, June 13, 2016

"It's Time To Stop Pretending" - A Response To Some Of The Reactions To The Orlando Pulse Massacre

There are many different and gradiated responses to the recent tragedy in Orlando. Some are coherent and desirable (for instance, demands for greater controls on the sale and purchase of firearms). Most are blame-oriented (whether of people or public legislation). And a depressingly decent-sized number are outright objectionable.

Never mind that banning further Muslim migration to America wouldn't have had any impact upon a man born in New York. Disregard the fact that easy access to firearms quite clearly had an obvious role to play here. Who cares if it turns out that the shooter's about as nominally Islamic as the Democratic People's Republic of Korea is either democratic or something other than a hereditary monarchy. During a full-on election season frenzy, right-wing (Islamophobic) conservative commentators clearly know what's up!

And so they've come forth streaming from the woodwork, en-masse. People who, perhaps less than a year ago were jumping up and down in opposition to the passage of equality of marriage in the US - in some cases outright demanding the continued marginalization of gay people and other sexual minorities in their local polity's national discourse - are now queuing up to condemn overtly homophobic violence.

Is this a win?

Well, arguably yes - but in actual, practical terms almost certainly not.

For you see, nothing's actually changed other than the target of the derision and conservative opprobium. This isn't seriously a "nobody picks on our gays but ME" moment (as deplorable as even that sentiment would be). Instead, it's a point at which the narrative shifts (or they seek to have it do so), and the flailing, hate-mongering minorities (who, lets be clear, while they're often from arid, religiously conservative and well-armed backgrounds almost invariably seem to be Texans rather than Taliban) attempt to get large swathes of us all of the rest of us to go along with their bigoted agenda.

Or, in other words ... they haven't changed what they believe - only the way in which they package it up and try to get portions of 'middle society' to go with them on it. Occasionally with some marked degree of success - you now semi-regularly get theoretically liberally-minded people who ought know better making the sort of demands you might expect from a well-ensconsed and superfluously educated religious academic about the need for 'religious reform' and movements away from 'strict exegetical literalism'.

In short, a lot of people professing an ardent desire to (at lest rhetorically) "Defend The Gays", are no friends of the gay community at all. And are instead merely doing so in a bid to find a liberal-amenable justification for Islamophobia.

It's an insidious trend, a depressing trend, and all too often it's the contemporary trend.

But what started me thinking about this curious profusion of conservative bigotry dressed up in liberal clothing (and assuredly attempting to co-opt liberal struggles for its own nefarious ends and purposes) wasn't the events of the weekend. Instead, it's been something that I've been observing for some time.

One of the best examples of which took place at a meeting late last week.

There, a small knot of Islamophobes (at least one of whom turned out also to be a Hinduphobe, much to my rising choler) made a great show of demanding that "certain groups" be "encouraged" to "leave New Zealand", on grounds that their religious heritage and practices have "no place in New Zealand" due to, inter alia, how women are allegedly de facto and in all instances disempowered by same.

This is, on the face of it, a Liberal argument (albeit of the sort of character of un-intersectionalized 'liberalism' which started falling out of fashion and favour some decades if not almost a century ago).

But watch what happened next:

The only woman present at the meeting fairly immediately piped up, and drew upon her own experiences living elsewhere and engaging with the "certain groups" in question to argue against what had been said and point out that the older white males with the Islamophobic agenda had, in fact, gotten things fairly far askew wrong.

Their response was to talk over her, and tell her rather vigorously to shut up.

Almost immediately, my mind processed the irony I had just witnessed. Here were a group of self-declared conservatively minded people who'd just talked in fairly glowing terms about the progressive need to protect women's empowerment from the sadly benighted scourges of religious difference ... presently demonstrating the utter lie to their nominal convictions by attempting to silence and disempower a woman who dared to speak 'out of turn' in opposition to their agenda. Truly, "the revolution needs protecting from itself".

So what this exchange fairly conclusively proved to me, was simple. That many a modern 'conservative', when they speak out against misogyny (or, in this Orlando case, homophobia) and urge stringent, rigorous action against a religious demographic rhetorically identified as being fundamentally incompatible by its mere existence and presence with same ... they aren't doing so because they actually have any deep nor abiding belief in the desirability of a more tolerant and progressive society.

In fact, quite the opposite.

What they're instead seeking to do is find a more modernly-acceptable surface justification with which to garb their hidebound and objectionable personal-curmudgeonly agendas. A way to earn 'PC-brownie points' and semi-enthusiastic head-nodding from modernists who do (usually) know better by spouting largely the same prejudicial statements they've always believed but haven't, for some time, found as ardent an audience for.

In short, they aren't abjuring bigotry with this sort of pontificating and posturing - instead, they're ardently pursuing it.

And it isn't 'our' agenda that winds up triumphing out as a result.

In fact, come to think of it, we've been down this road before.

A little more than a decade ago, Christopher Hitchens decided to cap off a fairly impressive writing and polemical career as something of a darling of modern liberalism ... by enthusiastically endorsing George W. Bush's mangled and botched-up invasion of Iraq as a stirling defence of 'liberal' values.

History has recorded with disdain what you might term the 'consequentialist' interpretation of the outcomes thus delivered (it is certainly hard to argue that much of modern Iraq is more secular-amenable or liberally-"enlightened" now as compared to 15 years ago); but Hitchens' example remains relevant as an apt demonstration that even the seeming gleaming, glittering intellects amongst our number who apparently make it their business to be culturally and politically discerning ... can find themselves co-opted and lead astray.

And in the process do serious damage by affording a liberal veneer and credibility to fundamental(ist)ly (neo-)con values.

So when considering the reaction to the Orlando shooting, bear in mind that not all is what it seems. Regardless of whether it's seriously possible to take the mentally-ill rantings of a homo-cidal mass-murderer seriously when he rants down a phone line to Emergency Services to profess nominal loyalty to ISIS, people (and particularly those in or adjacent to the political sphere) are going to attempt to use this abhorrent incident as the basis for frenetically objectionable rhetoric and attempted-policy.

Defence of minority communities - whether sexual or religious in origin - is a worthy and noble cause.

But bear in mind that not all those seeking to capitalize nor cash in upon this most recent devastation truly or even incidentally bear that as their enduring objective.

Death to false pretenses.

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