Understanding National-Enquirer-esque Media-Memes of the 21st Century


Anyone who’s been paying attention the past half-century or so will have noticed that very large chunks of America have been every bit as Gay-unfriendly as The Media claim Russia is. And then they weren’t?

It happened so quickly that it all seems a rainbow blur: America now wears the hiply-beneficent smile of A Shining Beacon of LGBT Rights. But I can still remember jarring things like the beating deaths of Matthew Shepard and Brandon Teena and the shit-storm of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and Proposition 8 and the populist, pejorative Web-adjective “Ghey!” And let’s consider the dozens (if not hundreds) of straight-acting actors, pols, cub scout leaders and athletes who think it prudent, still, to stay in their walk-in-closets… just in case. American Blue-Staters are booing Russia’s backward gender-politics as though the USA has been Queer-positive for a hundred years. As if same-sex couples weren’t breaking the speed-limit in last-minute cross-country road trips to get married in the one or two States in which they could, temporarily just a few years ago. So what is Uncle Sam’s genital volte face all about? It’s about undercutting the unforeseen phenom of Vladimir Putin’s moral authority.

Vlad was the voice of reason on Syria, after all. Vlad was suddenly beating the POTUSOC* in Global, and even American, opinion polls and I’m pretty sure the POTUSOC‘s handlers were less than smug or shruggy about it. And that explains America’s apparent Pauline conversion on the matter of what she used to refer to, unwinkingly, as “Sodomites”; this felt like an issue they could show up the Russkies on. The Prez who’d invited Rick Warren to perform a subtextually-Gay-bashing invocation at his inauguration was suddenly Richard Simmons’ best friend. The Media were, as ever, in charge of the (perceptual) conversion. It was a classic inversion of Stalinist airbrushing. (And it’s not just the USA; Germany’s winning entry to this year’s Eurovision… but you know that already).

Likewise with the barrage of tragic/ outrageous/ revolting/ infuriating AP Tales pouring out of China/ Pakistan/ India the past ten years or so (with a sudden spike during the most recent three): you heard the one about the hellish bear-torture of the “Chinese bile farms” … but how many Americans are aware that thousands of peeping little male baby chickens are fed, alive, on a conveyor-belt, every day, into merciless rolling grinders (because male baby chickens are commercially worthless) as a banal by-product of the industrial process? You read lots of blood-pressure-raising tales of honor-killings and arranged marriages in Pakistan this year but the epidemic of stomach-churning child sexual abuse in America is never presented as structurally-inevitable, despite the sexualization of Yankee child-based advertizing and entertainment… those stories are always presented as tragic one-offs or symptomatic of poverty and therefore not, essentially, American. Rape in India is a hot topic lighting up Facebook comment threads all over America but Rape in American colleges/ daycares/ churches/ barracks/ suburban homes/ ghettoes is not. Rape in America does not, somehow, render America or American culture anathema in its reflected light.

Why all these inflammatory pieces in HuffPo /Slate/ Salon about the animal-cruelty-and-misogyny-rich “Third World” when just as many shocking pieces on similar topics could be written about Missouri or New York or LA or Montreal? (Do you know what’s been happening to Aboriginal women and children in Vancouver for decades…?)

Because they want your sense of the Chinese and the Indians and the Pakistanis to change. They want to undo all the good will and positive vibes; all the exotic Tai Chi/ Buddhism/ Yoga/ Sufi/ Khalil Gibran higher-consciousness fuzzy-feelings and admiration that the middle-to-upper-middle-class Boomers (ie, Liberal Voters) developed for that part of the world during college. They want you to stop thinking of these people as “wise” and “civilized” or even Human at all. They want you to agree to (or even clamor for) the next couple of decades of “humanitarian interventions” they’re planning. They want you to nod primly with Puritan relief and satisfaction when those bombs fall.

And they don’t want Vladimir Putin to get in the way.

*President of the United States, of Color

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