Friday, February 25, 2011


I haven't read Matt Bai's New York Times Magazine profile of Chris Christie yet, but I see that Doug at Balloon Juice is flagging this passage about Christie's choice of Antichrist:

Ronald Reagan had his "welfare queens," Rudy Giuliani had his criminals and "squeegee men," and now Chris Christie has his sprawling and powerful public-sector unions -- teachers, cops and firefighters who Christie says are driving up local taxes beyond what the citizenry can afford, while also demanding the kind of lifetime security that most private-sector workers have already lost.

Doug says:

The trick won't work as well this time because unlike mythical "welfare queens" and "squeegee men", mythical teat-sucking public union members are often white. So, no, public union members are not the ideal adversary here. It will take years of propaganda to make bitching about public sector unions as effective as bitching about teh black and teh brown.

Republicans jumped the gun this time.

I'm not sure I agree. In the wingnut media, bloviators try as often as possible to follow the word "union" with the word "thugs"; if no race distinction can be highlighted, it's quite useful to try to make the point that union workers are crude, boorish, foul-smelling brutes who don't operate under the same societal restraints as the rest of us. It may not work when the strikers are teachers, but as long as some burly bruisers in hard hats show up, if you're demagoguing this, you're golden (especially if your target audience consists of people who have, or had, desk jobs).

Oh, and let's not forget that one of the original Antichrists of Governor Reagan -- the hippie -- was generally white. Reagan, of course, rhetorically turned hippies into unsocialized effeminate subhumans:

Next night in Milwaukee, 2,823 Republicans jammed into the Municipal Arena for another $100-a-plate affair, while several thousand more paid $5 apiece to listen from the balcony. Reagan, who may have been raiding Bob Hope's gag file, started off with a string of japes: "We have some hippies in California. For those of you who don't know what a hippie is, he's a fellow who has hair like Tarzan, who walks like Jane, and who smells like Cheetah."

You have to work harder when your bogeyman is melanin-deprived, but demonization is very doable.


UPDATE: The shouters of "Shame!" after the lower house of the Wisconsin legislature voted to approve the Walker budget bill are pointedly being portrayed by right-wing sites as unhinged; this is the kind of dehumanization I'm talking about (see Fox Nation, Glenn Beck's Blaze, Gateway Pundit). The Fox Nation headline is "Wisconsin Minority Democrats Explode With Ugly Roars After Bill Clears Assembly" -- anyone else think the use of "Minority" there is an attempt to suggest something other than the party's status in the legislature relative to Republicans? Obviously this is staggeringly hypocritical faux-outrage in response to a relatively mild outcry, but the point is that these guys never stop trying to suggest that our side is dangerously unsocialized, and if you say it ofdten enough, sooner or later it's going to stick.

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