Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Is it appropriate for George Allen to make James Webb's novels an issue in the Virginia Senate campaign?

Who's asking: Peter Schleck, Washington, DC

If you've been watching any U.S. news in the past week or so, you've seen some of the recent manufactured uproar over scenes in novels written by James Webb, candidate for the U.S. Senate from the commonwealth of Virginia. Apparently, campaign workers for George Allen had been trying for weeks to get reporters to focus on passages in Webb's novels that they consider demeaning to women, and particularly on one scene in which an Asian peasant takes his four-year-old son's penis in his mouth as a gesture of affection.

Responsible media outlets ignored these attempts until Matt Drudge blasted it on his website, at which point the story became the controversy and "outrage," not the passages of the books themselves.

Peter asked, "Whaddya think?" and I think the whole thing is disgusting, from beginning to end.

First, novelists make stuff up. To ascribe the viewpoint or behavior of a fictional character to an author is ignorant at best and lunatic at worst. I just finished Stephen King's latest novel; in one particularly harrowing scene, a deranged man takes a can opener to the main character's breast. Do I think that Stephen King endorses this behavior, or has fantasized about doing this himself? Hell, no. (In fact, I wish Stephen King was running for Governor of Maine -- he'd be a better choice than any of the official candidates. But that's another post.)

Second, this manufacturing of outrage -- and then pandering and weaseling to deflect the outrage -- has got to stop. It's exhausting, it demeans everyone involved, and it cancels out the effectiveness of genuine outrage in the few situations that call for genuine outrage (e.g., Abu Ghraib, inadequate death benefits for military families, the terrifying national debt).

On the subject of cheap and easy outrage, let's talk for a minute about John Kerry's slip of the tongue yesterday, when he said that kids who didn't do well in school would end up stuck in Iraq. He says he didn't mean to say that -- what he meant to say was that kids who didn't do well in school would end up getting other people stuck in Iraq -- but the manufactured outrage over this remark hides some deeper, bitter truths that we ought to be talking about, rather than shouting about who loves our soldiers more.

The first of these truths is that the U.S. as a nation is stuck in Iraq. The second of these truths is that individual soldiers (including some of our best and brightest) are stuck in Iraq, held there past the terms of their original enlistment because no troops are available to replace them. The third of these truths is that educated or not, many of our young people are stuck in Iraq because there are no jobs for them at home, unless they want to work for hourly wages without health benefits.

Why aren't the candidates talking about these things? Why didn't John Kerry take this opportunity to say, "Yeah, I misspoke, but let's talk about this"?

I'm disgusted, disgusted with all of it and all of them. For God's sake, everyone, figure out what you're really outraged about, and go vote next Tuesday.


Anonymous said...

The Webb non issue is a big mistake by Allen.

The Kerry issue is a chance for Webb to step up and look senatorial, as a decorated vet, by decrying Kerry's idiotic statement.

Cheers !

Mark Dunn

Tom Ehrenfeld said...

Excellent post!

Anonymous said...

One of the reasons I was excited in May to be be moving out of Washington, DC, and back to Virginia was because my personal vote would again count for something. DC, briefly for those who never lived there or close to, doesn't have U.S. senators or a representative and the presidential vote is always so lopsid that a Democratic Satan/Hitler ticket would crush a Jesus/Ghandi Republican one there.

So I get to Virginia Beach and find out that my choices for representative are a committed creationist and homophobe or a guy who's sole qualification seems to be that his family is singlehandedly responsible for spurring the building of rowhouses on all the lad that used to be swamp. For Senate, I have my pick of a racist moron or a misanthrope who has to work as a freelance journalist because he can't get along with anyone.

I'm thisclose to exercising my outrage with the very system of American politics by not voting. When there doesn't seem to be a less-worse choice, does it even make sense to choose?

Sorry for the angry rant. Feel free to rebut or chastise.


AnswerGirl said...

Yeah, I don't envy your choice for Congress, Ed -- a brainless blonde idiot who was cruel to our mother (no exaggeration), or a man who believes the seat should be his by family inheritance. I say vote for the young prince, and then vote him out in two years.

As for the Senate race, I think you have to go with the crank; I have seldom been as disappointed with a public figure as I've been with George Allen.

Anonymous said...

"Dear Answer Girl,

Well said.

"Never re-elect anybody."

-- Kinky Friedman