Saturday, June 26, 2004

Do You Kiss Your Mother With That Mouth?
For being the moral guardians of our nation and all, some of our most prominent conservatives have nasty little mouths on 'em. Dick Cheney's suggestion to Senator Pat Leahy that he go fuck himself (for which Dick says he has no regrets) is just the beginning.

(Historical digression: The first thing I thought of upon reading Cheney's refusal to apologize was the incident in 1856 when Massachusetts Senator Charles Sumner gave a two-day oration condemning Southern attempts to spread slavery to Kansas, and South Carolina Senator Preston Brooks came over and beat the hell out of him with his cane, right on the Senate floor. Brooks never apologized, and although he did pay a fine, Southern senators blocked every attempt to expel him. (There's a detailed history of the events here--scroll down a bit to find it.) Brooks became a hero in the South, and I would guess, if I had the stomach to venture over to Free Republic or other right-wing websites, that Cheney is being similarly lionized for his language. And here we sit, on the verge of our own civil war, but with no outlet to do anything about it.)

Cheney isn't the only conservative to unload an f-bomb lately. Bowtied weenie Tucker Carlson of CNN's Crossfire is hosting a new show on PBS that was set to debut this week. Rory O'Connor of MediaChannel.org wrote about the show, and criticized PBS's general shift to the right in general and Carlson in particular, although in fairly mild terms. O'Connor quoted Carlson as saying he's befuddled as to why he got the show in the first place--even though his father used to run the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Carlson took offense to the piece, as O'Connor reported in a subsequent column, and "Tucker concluded with the last refuge of the inarticulate, sputtering 'fuck you!' before abruptly terminating our otherwise fascinating conversation."

As Wonkette observed earlier this week when first reporting the Cheney incident, "We agree! Go fuck yourself--while it's still legal!"

O'Connor's piece on Carlson's reaction mentions a recent incident in which a New York Times reporter called a female reporter for L.A. Weekly a "cunt." In my opinion, no other word in English is as demeaning of its target as that one. But wait--it can be a term of endearment! University of Colorado president Elizabeth Hoffman says so, and she's a medieval scholar. UC has been rocked this spring and summer by scandals involving the sexual abuse of female students and student athletes by football players. At the center of the storm was female placekicker Katie Hnida, who left the football program after claiming she had been raped by fellow players and was told that the coaching staff would back the male players' story. She is one of three women now suing the university. In a deposition, Hoffman was told by one of the attorneys taking the deposition that one of the players had referred to Hnida as a cunt, and asked Hoffman if she objected to the word. Hoffman called it a "swear word," but also said that its meaning depends on the circumstances in which it is used. When she was asked if it could ever be used in a polite context, Hoffman replied: "Yes, I've actually heard it used as a term of endearment." Nearly universal condemnation followed, as it should have, given the utterly brain-dead nature of Hoffman's remark. By way of weaseling off the hook, a spokesman for Hoffman said that we should remember that the university president was a medieval scholar, and that we should defer to her judgment because the word goes back as far as The Canterbury Tales. Hoffman didn't go on to suggest that the athlete who called his female teammate a cunt had just come from a medieval literature class, but it wouldn't have been much more ludicrous if she had.

From what I can gather on the web, the flap over Hoffman's etymological lesson lasted three or four days a couple of weeks ago and then disappeared. But if I were a Colorado alum, I wouldn't be touting it much these days. The school declined to fire the football coach who presides over the renegade program, making lots of noise about regret and repentance and accountability while not talking about the fact that they'd owe him several million dollars on his contract if they fired him. And then the university president tried to excuse away something for which there's no excuse.

I love college football as a spectacle, but not as a business, or as a matter of public policy. What's gone on this summer at Colorado doesn't help.

Status of mojo: Well, clearly better.

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