Wednesday, January 10, 2007

The Discordian Therapist Speaks

Click here to see a staggering example of how the art of spin can turn one story into quite another.

(It seems incestuous, in a way, to start off one on my blog entries with an entry from someone else's blog, but isn't that what life is all about? Blogging, I mean, not incest. See, I had you going there. You thought I was about to come out in favor of brother-sister marriages, didn't you? And that's what this entry is really about: how adding, deleting, or tweaking the wording of a story can make it seem entirely different. )

Now, why would I be telling you this? Because your life is a story you tell yourself. Tweaking the story changes the ending, believe me. What ending do you want to have to your story? That could mean this day's story, or the entire eighteen-volume trash novel that is YOUR LIFE.

The first version of the story paints a picture of some sort of Californian liberal freakasauruses who heard a men's choir singing "The Star-Spangled Banner," and set upon the singers with baseball bats to demonstrate their hatred for all things American.

(Speaking of spin: when exactly did "liberal" become the shorthand for "hates all things American"? That may be a can of worms to open, and taste, in a future blog. Onwards.)

The second story makes it sound like a skirmish between two rival gangs of upper-crust thugs -- the Richie Riches from Yale University stray onto the turf of the Little Lord Fauntleroys, who rule the streets of Pacific Heights without pity. Soon the Fauntleroys will teach the Richies a lesson they will never forget! You know, like in that great old movie, The Warriors.

The third version underlines for you, in case you missed it in the first article, the fact that the guy with the Arab name got the worst beating. Are we leading up to something here? Is this supposed to be an important point?

Well, they never tell you. Remember, these are four disparate articles written for different news organs. They aren't trying to work together to give you a coherent impression of what's going on. Each reporter or editor is coming from a separate little POV, and the more you add them up the less you can figure out the resulting mess. Truly do many things come to pass, but you won't clarify matters by reading the paper, believe me.

Shakespeare's Sister sees the beating up of the singers as ultimately and truthfully a homophobic thing. I'm not so sure. Many people, young males in particular, favor homophobic epithets when trying to put someone down. Gays are one of the few groups you can still harass openly. And the parties being harassed will often flee rather than stand there and allow themselves to be perceived as gay. The insult still has that much power, even in the year 2007. People are really bullshit sometimes.

But again - the guy who got beaten up the most seriously is named Aziz. If you pare away everything else and fit that Arab surname together with something one of the assailants said -- "you aren't welcome here" -- you can easily start to wonder if this wasn't an ethnic cleansing moment. What about the gay-hating language, you ask? Well, remember the humiliating sexual positions the POWs were forced to assume in those candid photos taken at Abu Ghraib? That wasn't a comment on anyone's orientation. That was just a special way of heaping on soem extra humiliation.

Personally, I think this beating incident had little to do with with either homophobia or the atavistic loathing of Middle Eastern ethnic groups. I think a bunch of drunken bungholes spotted a group of preppie-looking dorks, and beat them up. The rest of it was tacked on by the reporters, who wanted after all to sell some papers. They know that "innocent singing group assaulted by drunks" is not half as interesting to read as "harmless singers perceived as gay and beaten" or "upstanding Arab-American Yale student singled out for beating by silver-spoon-sucking scum."

If this incident demonstrates prejudice against anyone, I think we have to talk about prejudice against dorks. If you are now, or ever been a dork, you know that you are not safe from insult anywhere -- not even at a party thrown in your honor. Oh, the homophobic slurs? Dorks know that they get accused of being gay every day they are alive, even if they are married with six kids. Why? Because the world is full of idjits who can't tell the difference between a homosexual and a person lacking coolativity. They use the insults interchangeably. And indeed, it is almost as acceptable to persecute gays as it is to persecute losers. The reasoning goes something like this: THE HOMOS AND THE DORKS ARE BOTH SO FAR BENEATH MY NOTICE, WHY BOTHER TO TELL THEM APART?

That's my therapeutic reframe on a puzzling little episode in American history. Elie Wiezel was right -- this act of persecution will be forgotten too soon, and it will be repeated as soon as it is forgotten. Of course he was talking about the Holocaust, and this is a lot less severe to say the least. But in his first major book, Night, Wiezel paints a clear picture of how small persecutions eventually snowball into bigger ones.

A great many homosexuals were burned to death in the concentration camps. The only protection we dorks have is that there are too many of us to incinerate.

But I digress...


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