Monday, July 23, 2018


There are calls for the resignation of Jason Spencer, a Republican state representative from Georgia, after his appearance on Sacha Baron Cohen's new Showtime series:
Spencer dropped his pants and repeatedly used the n-word in the episode of “Who Is America?” ...

“Representative Spencer has disgraced himself and should resign immediately,” said [Georgia House speaker David] Ralston. “Georgia is better than this.” ...

Cohen, who played an Israeli military expert, persuaded Spencer to take part in what he was told was a counterterrorism video. Cohen gets him to yell racial epithets and shimmy his exposed rear-end toward purported attackers screaming “USA” and “America” by saying it will ward off terrorists.
Spencer blames the incident on safety fears:
Spencer just texted his response to the episode to The [Washington] Post....

“In 2017 I received countless death threats in connection with my introduction of legislation involving the wearing of masks. The threats escalated to the point that my wife received threatening phone calls concerning her and my children. I was very afraid for my safety and the safety of my entire family.

"Then, on June 14th, a gunman opened fire at members of Congress on a baseball field. I knew people on that field. Now, the fears I already had became more intensified as the reality of my family being targeted by a similar, deranged, would-be assassin became even more possible. I was in such a poor state of mind that my wife and I also undertook marriage counseling with a licensed therapist during this time.

"Sacha Baron Cohen and his associates took advantage of my paralyzing fear that my family would be attacked. In posing as an Israeli Agent, he pretended to offer self-defense exercises. As uncomfortable as I was to participate, I agreed to, understanding that these ‘techniques’ were meant to help me and others fend off what I believed was an inevitable attack.

"My fears were so heightened at that time, I was not thinking clearly nor could I appreciate what I was agreeing to when I participated in his ‘class.’ ..."
Spencer's "legislation involving the wearing of masks" was actually a ban on wearing burqas in public. He withdrew the bill after widespread criticism. I don't know how many death threats he actually received after introducing the bill -- even one, I'm sure, would be frightening -- but if you watch Spencer's appearance on the show, you don't see a guy acting out of blind panic. He's a willing participant. He's not in a fugue state. He knows exactly what he's doing.

This reminds me of the "gay panic" defense that's used in courtrooms to this day, even by defendants who clearly aren't experiencing a moment of immediate terror (not that an encounter with an LGBT person is ever an excuse for violence).
In all but three U.S. states, anyone charged with murder can claim in court that they should be held less accountable for their actions because of their victim’s sexual orientation or gender identity. It’s a defense known as the gay or trans “panic” defense....

In 2008, for example, Brandon McInerney shot and killed his 15-year-old classmate, Larry King, who occasionally wore makeup and high heels, at their school in Oxnard, California. McInerney allegedly teased King for weeks and vowed “to get a gun and shoot him,” according to the LA Times.

So when his trial started, McInerney claimed that King’s behavior made him feel “threatened” and invoked the LGBTQ panic defense. As a result, he accepted a guilty plea in exchange for 21 years in prison. The case could have landed him behind bars for life, but instead, he'll get out when he’s 38 years old.
Spencer might have been experiencing anxiety about threats after he proposed his racist burqa ban, but he wasn't feeling threatened or trapped at the moment the cameras started rolling. But his conservative constituents have heard so much from the right-wing media about the imminence of terrorism, and also about "the violent left," that many of them will probably believe he just couldn't help himself.

Spencer lost his primary earlier this year and will leave office after the last few months of his term -- but I bet he'll wind up back on his feet. I'm sure a lot of right-wingers believe fear literally made him yell racial slurs, talk insulting in fake Chinese, and drop his pants on camera.

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