There is a picture making its way around the internet of a grossly overweight woman standing in what looks like a cafeteria line. She is wearing a pair of shorts that are several sizes too small and the fat rolls at her stomach and bottom are pushed up and exposed. I don't know who the woman is or where the picture came from, but from what I can tell, it's a picture that both liberals and conservatives, Democrats and Republicans, men and women, Americans and non-Americans, feel perfectly at ease making fun of.
There is another one of an obese man sitting on a motorcycle, butt crack exposed.
And yet another one where a woman's breasts and belly have been photo-shopped to look like a huge, green Ninja Turtle.
Wander around Facebook or Twitter on any given day and you'll find FB friends and Twitter followers who have posted dozens of pictures like this; where the only purpose for posting is to make raucous, profane fun of a mostly undeserving subject.
Everyone in the public eye can expect to be the subject of speculation
and/or ridicule, simply by being in the public eye. When Britney Spears had a public mental breakdown, the internet
couldn't get enough of it--not to empathize or commiserate, but to shame her and make
her misery complete.
More recently, Renee Zellweger may have had an eye-lift but so far she's not admitting it. Now we're forced to spend hours and hours and hours discussing this important issue, to the neglect of other even more important things. Like whether Monica Lewinsky's entry into the Twitterverse is all about embarrassing Hillary so close to her presidential campaign or is really about the advantage her own experiences might bring during a campaign against cyber-bullying.
After speaking to groups about slut-shaming and cyber-bullying, Lewinsky joined Twitter last week in order to open up the conversation. This is her focus now, she says.
After 16 years of having almost universal hatred and ridicule directed at her, who would know better about what that kind of unwanted attention does to a young life? What happened next wasn't surprising: The cyber-bullies came out in full force against her.
The anonymity of
the internet allows anyone with a cruel streak and access to Wi-Fi a safe haven for vicious intolerance. Now no one
is immune and the meanies are everywhere, hiding behind usernames that
keep them safe from the same kind of public scrutiny they're so rabidly
Even the websites I normally go to for mostly true news and views profit from sidebar links to photo-stories about former child stars who are now ugly, about celebrities who smell bad, about ridiculously awful plastic surgeries, about female stars with cellulite or without makeup.
Sites like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube build their numbers to sky-high status whenever hatred and ridicule goes viral. The comments and re-tweets are nightmarish, and if I think too long on what kind of people are out there gorging on this stuff I find myself questioning whether, as a civilization, we're even worth saving.
And we're not even talking yet about politics and politicians.
The destructive politics of, say, Mitch McConnell, John Boehner, or Chris Christie are enough to be the centerpiece of any conversation. Their looks don't hurt us, their policies do. But whenever their political activities cause some major ruckus, the comment sections invariably devolve into jokes about their personal appearance--as if the only way they can be hurt is by making fun of weight, chin, or skin.
As a political blogger, I'm not above enjoying the hell out of ridiculing certain Right Wing pols whose own meanness goes beyond hurting individuals and leans more toward causing heartache and dismay to multitudes. They deserve it. But going beyond their politics to make fun of their looks, or their spouses' looks, or their children's looks doesn't add to the conversation--it doesn't fix anything. It's a cruel way to get a laugh.
We hear about teen suicides nearly every day. The direct cause of far too many of them is cruel, senseless public shaming and/or bullying on the internet. It's time the shamers take the heat. They're miserable excuses for human beings, made even worse by the fact that they know they can inflict that kind of harm anonymously. They're heartless cowards, blameless as long as they can stay nameless.
The broad scope and openness of the internet is a gift, but when it's used as a tool for abuse we have an obligation to self-regulate it. We have to pay attention. We are the grown-ups here.
(Cross-posted at Dagblog, Daily Kos, and Alan Colmes' Liberaland)
Monday, October 27, 2014
On The Internet Mean Streets
Saturday, October 4, 2014
Hey, Democrats, You Want To Win? Try Being Democrats
The mid-term elections are less than a month away and there's a good chance the Republicans will hold the House and possibly take the Senate. Stunning as that
You hear that, Democrats? The Republicans could win. I mean, WIN.
Here's the part that really irks me: The Republicans get off on making things terrible for the rest of us and if we let them win again, there's no chance they'll even say "thank you". First they'll gloat and then they'll make us pay for being so stupid as to let them win. They're out to hurt us and we have a history of making it easy for them.
Can we stop doing that? Please?
Don't even get me started on the Supreme Court and Citizens United, the Koch Brothers' factions, insane-to-the-point-of-hilarious-if-you-find-that-sort-of-thing-funny gerrymandering, corporate vs. social welfare, insurance-mandated health care, tax breaks for the rich, the attempted murder of public education, the killing off of unions in order to keep labor poor and grateful for just any job, the ongoing crusade to keep women barefoot and on their knees, the effort to pretend hungry kids aren't really hungry--not to mention the sanctioned takeover of our airwaves so that only the rich can survive to tell their stories. All brought to us by the Republicans.
We're just under a month away from the elections and once again, sorry to say, we Democrats have failed to make our case. We have a platform that says the major focus for Democrats is, very simply, to ensure equality, to lift up the lower and middle classes, to keep our bodies healthy and our environment safe, to never be Republicans.
We're humanitarians (definition: concerned with or seeking to promote human welfare), which means we're liberals, and we used to be proud of it. Not anymore. We've become pathetically careful about blowing our own horns lest someone think we're bragging. Or smug. Or condescending. Or--oh my God--elitist. We fall for that shit every time.
We're such suckers. No wonder so many people have lost respect for us. During the Reagan years the Republicans deliberately built the lie that it's bad to be good and damned if we didn't fall for it. Even those of us who knew better. (One small example: Some of us dropped the word "Liberal" because people were making fun of us. A dark moment in our history, but one I won't forget.)
Suddenly the Teflon president could do no wrong and anyone who went against him--including the last of the investigative press--were deemed doltish. Arrogant. And just not nice. So because we got suckered into feeling bad about doing good stuff, they got away with demeaning anyone on welfare (welfare queens in Cadillacs), with calling ketchup a vegetable in order to save money on poor kids' school lunches, with convincing workers they didn't need unions, with starting the ball rolling on outsourcing, and with moving the country Rightward when moving to the Right meant moving backward, not forward.
Trickle Down theory. (Because Ronald Reagan SAID it would work, that's why.) But as long as we let the wealthy build their fortunes in this country without having to share it here, there is no chance it will ever trickle down. It can't and won't work that way. They take but they don't give back, and they're as proud of that little coup as the voters are oblivious to it.
Their buddies in the House and Senate know that as long as they keep the hot-button issues like abortion, religious "persecution", gun rights, and gay marriage going, they'll get the votes. The money will keep rolling in for those so-called public servants, they'll get to keep their taxpayer-paid jobs and, if they stay in office long enough, they'll get--courtesy of us--a dandy lifetime retirement package, safe from the vagaries of depressions, recessions, or greed. No matter what they do to us, they'll have it made and we'll go on paying them. For the rest of their lives. Knowing, of course, that they will never return the favor. Because we're suckers and they're not.
We Democrats are here to put working people first. Our job as Democrats is to work tirelessly to keep people safe, to build a strong middle class, and to put the people who ruined our economy out of business. And if we can't bring ourselves to do that, we should at least have the good sense to stop rewarding them.
I'm worried about my party. Our representatives aren't listening to us. Some Democratic politicians are breaking away, on the lookout for better friends. I, on the other hand--I'm on the lookout for better politicians. Politicians are elected to represent the party that supports them. We, the Democratic voters, are the party. Our politicians are temporary and expendable. Our party is, or should be, forever.
I've been a Democrat for multiple decades--so many, you could say I'm entrenched. So when elected men and women who say they're Democrats don't act like Democrats, I take it personally. I know what I am and they're not it.
Democrats are not Republicans. Democrats lean liberal. (Republicans, you might have noticed, don't.) Democrats are Democrats because we believe in people, not corporations. Corporations are not now and never have been people, and Dem politicians should be screaming their heads off over that one. Five members of the Supreme Court have opened the doors to allowing those with the most money to own our country. That's nuts. We Democrats are the only ones who might be in a position to change that, but we have to win elections first.
So listen up, politicians: If you don't know (or don't care) that being a Democrat means you're expected to lean liberal/progressive, then do us a favor and get out. Stop pretending you're one of us. We have work to do and you're not helping. We need universal health care, strong unions, smooth-running social programs, massive infrastructure funding, the dehumanization of corporations, and an end to deadly trillion-dollar wars.
The people who caused this mess need to be held accountable. If you think nothing can be done, you're not one of us. We don't need you. We need tough people who don't shrink from stupid insults or fall for false promises. The Republicans are our enemy and they're comfortable in that role. We can't reason with them or force them to compromise, because they like things the way they are. They get paid big bucks to keep it this way. And honestly, Dems, six years of unrelenting obstruction and recalcitrance should be proof enough that they're serious about wanting to destroy us. What else could they possibly do to convince you?
So just stop, please. Take a breath. You're Democrats. Act like you're proud of it.
(Cross-posted at Dagblog and Alan Colmes' Liberaland )
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