Studies in Hypocrisy From the F-Word to the New York Times




T

he
hypocrisy that runs deep in this culture is amusingly illustrated
by the fact that while the F-word has become standard operating
language, especially under conditions of emotion or stress, and
for the political right as well as others, for the right-wing base
and many Republican cadres and allies it is the ultimate in immoral
and “indecent” language, and its use in the media is fought
with great energy. On the one hand we have Vice-President Dick Cheney
using the word on the floor of the Senate telling Democratic Senator
Patrick Leahy, “Fuck yourself”; and George Bush himself
saying to


Wall
Street Journal

journalist Al Hunt “You no-good fucking
son of a bitch. I will never fucking forget what you wrote!”
Karl Rove told Ron Suskind his thoughts about one political enemy:
“We will fuck him. Do you hear me? We will fuck him. Like no
one else has ever fucked him.” Right-wing judge Laurence Silberman,
exulting over an attack on Senator Paul Simon who had harshly questioned
the credentials of Clarence Thomas for Supreme Court justice, said:
“You nailed him! You fucked him!” 


It
is also the word of choice among our boys fighting for freedom in
Iraq: “We’re here to give you your fuckin’ freedom,
so back off,” as one GI put it to Iraqi protesters. And on-site
reports of GI sweeps and violent entry into Iraqi homes regularly
report “fuck” as the word of choice by the invaders as
they beat and push the terrified householders around. 


Why
the deep concern of the righteous? An important reason is that the
word is about SEX, which is bad and best treated by abstinence and
(in later years) darkness. The F-word’s use might cause children
to ask for an explanation, which would force the righteous into
evasions and talks about stork-delivery, when they don’t want
to lie. 


FCC
boss Michael Powell has responded to the push of the righteous,
with the FCC ruling in March 2004 “that the use of the ‘F-word’
during last year’s broadcast of the Golden Globes violates
the federal statute…the gratuitous use of such vulgar language
on broadcast television will not be tolerated.” 


This
hypocrisy works out well for the right wing as they dominate both
the media and the work of an agency like the FCC. Thus the contradiction
and hypocrisy are not given much attention and rules against indecency
can be used as a selective club to keep the media in line. 



Sex in the Media 



A

closely related profusion of hypocrisy flows from the fact that
sex sells, so that the commercial media, under competitive pressure,
use it aggressively in both ads and programming. Women are displayed
in ever more provocative clothing (or lack of it), poses, and actions.
The competitive ads for cures for erectile dysfunction and frigidity
show couples looking ever more satisfied from just-completed sexual
encounters and sex-saturated programs like “Married by America”
and “Desperate Housewives” have proliferated, heavily
represented on the Fox network. Frank Rich notes that “Fox
remains the go-to network for Paris Hilton (‘The Simple Life’)
and wife-swapping (‘Trading Spouses: Meet Your New Mommy’),”
and that “The Murdoch cultural stable includes recent books
like Jenna Jameson’s


How
to Make Love Like a Porn Star

and the Vivid Girls’

How
to Have a XXX Sex Life

, which have been synergistically, even
joyously, promoted on Fox News by willing hosts like Rita Crosby
and, needless to say, Mr. O’Reilly.”




Rich
also notes, “None of this has prompted an uprising from the
red-state Fox News loyalists supposedly so preoccupied with ‘moral
values’.” Of course, none of these programs offer a positive
view of pro-choice and gay-lesbian rights, but still the willingness
to tolerate adultery, open and public sex, and de facto pornography
is impressive. Of course these programs are offered by a network
that supports aggression, torture, official lies on a grand scale
(historically “off-the-charts,” as Mark Crispin Miller
points out), a destruction of the welfare state, racism, and subversion
of the U.S. constitution, with implied moral and political values
that apparently appeal to the loyalists. The programs watched by
children should help integrate them into a culture of aggression,
domination, hierarchy, and militarism. 



The Pro-Death Constituency 



T

here
is a substantial overlap between the folks who oppose abortion and
those who support capital punishment and perpetual war. Thus the
self-designation of these people as “pro-life” is a serious
misrepresentation—they favor preserving the life of fetuses,
but are in favor of a variety of policies that injure or terminate
life once it emerges from the womb. They could, with rather more
justice, be called the “pro-death” constituency as their
preference is for protecting undeveloped life still devoid of personality,
while they are less concerned with protecting the lives of humans
who are fully sensate and members of the human community. In fact,
many of them are positively eager to see mass death imposed on people
who stand in the way of their country’s projection of power. 


Many
of them are extremely fond of Sharon’s Israel, recently in
an intensified phase of ethnic cleansing, busy rendering life miserable
and killing large numbers of another set of non-Caucasians. Political
commentator Bill Berkowitz also calls attention to a current Christian
fundamentalist compassion deficit: “Organizations which are
amazingly quick to organize to fight against same-sex marriage,
a woman’s right to choose, and embryonic stem cell research
are missing in action when it comes to responding to the disaster
in southern Asia. None of their websites are actively soliciting
aid for the victims of the earthquake/tsunami” (www.workingforchange.com). 


Thirty
years ago I coauthored an article on “Moral Consistency and
the Abortion Issue” (with Robert Edelstein and Mary Herman,

Commonweal

, March 22, 1974) in which we carried out statistical
significance tests on the relation between voting on an extremely
restrictive anti-abortion bill in the Pennsylvania legislature and
voting on a series of bills that would have (1) reinstituted capital
punishment, (2) expressed opposition to the Vietnam War, (3) continued
payments to welfare recipients, and (4) eased up on parole requirements
for prisoners. The first two votes provide measures of legislators’
reactions to the direct termination of post-fetal life. The other
two are crude indicators of concern with human welfare. Our statistical
analysis of the votes of Pennsylvania legislators showed a strongly
significant correlation between votes for the anti-abortion bill
and votes for reinstituting capital punishment and support for the
Vietnam War (and against easing parole requirements; there was no
significant relationship between anti-abortion and pro-welfare votes). 


This
article aroused strong emotions among some readers of

Commonweal

,
but the statistical findings were never challenged and they point
to a linkage that is fairly obvious. It follows that there is no
way the anti-abortion crusaders can justifiably call themselves
“pro-life.” When they and the mainstream media use such
terminology it should be assailed and corrected.  



The New York Times






and the Mrs. Jellyby
Syndrome 



T

he


New York Times

has long suffered from the Mrs. Jellyby Syndrome, a disorder described
by example in Charles Dickens’s

Bleak House

, where Mrs.
Jellyby spends all of her time organizing efforts on behalf of the
distant natives of Booriaboola-gha, while paying no attention to
the poor state of her own family. Among many other illustrations,
the

Times

displayed this ailment at the time of the big Pittston
strike in 1989, when the paper had no interest in this major home-grown
struggle but paid devoted attention to the simultaneous strike of
miners in the Soviet Union. Of course, the political basis of this
differential attention was obvious: the

Times

is anti-union,
but has always been pleased to support union activism in distant
places where it is causing problems for target/enemy states. In
the same time frame as the

Times

was giving indignant support
to the mistreatment of Solidarity in communist Poland, it was completely
silent on the even more brutal crackdown on unions in Turkey, a
U.S. client state.





Recently,
the

Times

has devoted massive attention to protests in the
Ukraine and the deficiencies of the voting process in that far-off
land, including the contradictory findings of exit polls and official
tabulations. In fact, from November 1 through December 31, 2004,
the paper had 118 articles on the Ukraine and its election, with
17 running on the first page. Meanwhile, protests in their own country
and election abuses here were of far less interest and concern to
the editors. There was a protest of an estimated 16,000 people at
Fort Benning, Georgia, on November 19-21, against the Western Hemisphere
Institute for Security Cooperation, long (and still widely) known
as the School of the Americas, and also widely known in non-establishment
sources and Latin America as the “School for the Assassins”
given the great importance of the school’s trainees in the
rise of the National Security State, death squads, torture, and
military dictatorships in Latin America. (Two-thirds of the people
named as high level killers by the UN-sponsored El Salvador Truth
Commission had been trained in the School of the Americas, and School
trainees were leaders in the overthrow of democratic governments
and instituting reigns of terror throughout Latin America.) The

New York Times

did not even mention this protest. 


There
have also been innumerable protests and studies claiming that the
recent U.S. presidential election was stolen. In Ohio, for example,
there have been rallies at the state house, hearings, numerous lawsuits
filed, and a great many affidavits and testimonials to electoral
abuses that in the aggregate could easily have determined the election
outcome. Ohio election officials are resisting subpoenas and there
is even evidence of corruption in ongoing recounts (

Democracy
Week,

“Ohio Recount Steeped in Fraud” www. truthout.org).
Congressperson John Conyers held hearings on the abuses and appealed
to members of the Senate to help postpone the Electoral College
vote till matters are cleared up. 


One
participant in the protests, Gary Polvinale, writes, “Ohio
is screaming the truth at the top of its lungs, literally, and no
one hears us because of all the noise of the media silence.”
He has a point. The

Times

has never mentioned that “State
officials have outsourced and privatized America’s voting system”
and that with 99.4 percent of votes under machine control, “It’s
an open invitation to vote fraud with minimal chance of discovery”
(Lynn Landes). The

Times

has not mentioned the Conyers hearings
in any news article and in its 36 articles that refer to the question
of possible electoral fraud in Ohio published between October 1
and December 31, none pull together the wide array of evidence and
no editorial or opinion piece calls for a full recount in Ohio and
elsewhere and a postponement of the Electoral College vote pending
such inquiries, let alone a new election. Their one extensive article
on the abuses, devoted strictly to deflating the claims, fails even
to mention electronic manipulation and Republican control of the
machines and software (Tom Zeller, “Vote Fraud Theories, Spread
by Blogs, Are Quickly Grounded,”

NYT,

Nov. 12, 2004). 


As
in the case of the 2000 election theft, the

Times

is not
about to challenge an election result that pleases the business
community and where a challenge would cause right-wing frenzy. The

Times

has pointed out that in the Ukraine the Supreme Court
declared the voting abuses so severe as to nullify the election,
but the paper doesn’t point out the irony that in this country
the Supreme Court has only thrown its weight into confirming electoral
abuses to permit their candidate to win (in 2000). Abuses in an
election in the Ukraine are one thing—the establishment as
a whole is happy to condemn that election and demand a rerun—but
for this country, no thanks.







 





Edward S. Herman
is an economist and author of many articles and books.