A Flea in the Fur of the Beast

“Death, fire, and burglary make all men equals.” —Dickens

Here’s That “If Only Someone In That Temple Had Been Carrying A Gun” Comment You Knew Was Coming

by evanmcmurry

It took Glenn Reynolds a full 24 hours to post this, but you know it was the first thing he thought of:

Related: The 6 Sikh temple shooting victims identified; Satwant Singh Kaleka died trying to fight off shooter. Heroic. But it’s too bad he didn’t have a gun.

Also, G-Rey isn’t 100% positive this guy’s a white supremacist. I mean, how do we know know? SEK helps him out with visual aids. (via Wonkette)

The Phenomenology Of White Supremacist Bands

by evanmcmurry

I remember reading, a good 12-15 years ago, an interview with Lars Frederickson of Rancid*—one of the most articulate and insightful punk musicians to ever open his mouth—in which Frederickson was showing the magazine writer his massive LP collection when the writer spotted some white supremacist records. (Skrewdriver, if I remember correctly.) Rancid was about the polar opposite of a white supremacist band, so the writer asked what was up, and Frederickson explained: a) know your enemy, and b) these are copies that are now not in the hands of the neo-Nazis who would want them. He’d bought the LPs off some guy who believed in the stuff, and deprived that guy of his racist material. The records now sat in Frederickson’s living room, inert, deprived of any power or opportunity to sway or corrupt.

Those were the days when the distribution of music was a finite enterprise. In 1996, a white supremacist band couldn’t press more than a couple hundred copies of an LP, if they were lucky. Their cause was so unpopular and so unwelcome that only ideologically-sympathetic record companies would take them on, record companies with near non-existent resources for production and distribution; the White Power music scene was structurally, economically prevented from spreading very far, which meant a guy like Lars Frederickson, whose scene occasionally bisected the white supremacist scene, could, by buying up a few used records, significantly reduce the total number out there.

Obviously, none of this holds anymore. There are now an infinite number of copies of End Apathy, the band led by the alleged Sikh Temple shooter Wade Michael Page; their music is on MySpace, as accessible as could be. There is no more buying up loose copies of neo-Nazi records to keep them out of circulation, as the very same factors that have led to a democratic expansion of the music industry have also eliminated the constraints upon white supremacist bands. If you’re the lead singer of one of these groups, you no longer even have to bother finding a label consonant with your cause; recording is cheap, distribution is easy, and there already exist web-based communities primed to find, consume, and relay your music. The dark side of the structural revolution that was (and is) the digitization of music is that in opening the door to all variety of non-commercial artists, it let in the far peripheries as well. A band like Cults, which never could have existed before the internet, can now flourish, but so can End Apathy.

Fortunately, there is only one Wade Michael Page, and the Southern Poverty Law Center has been tracing his every move since 2000, essentially doing on a grand, organized, and existential scale what Lars Frederickson was doing with neo-Nazi records. Thanks to the SPLC, authorities now have a trove of information on what had been, until a couple of hours ago, an unidentified corpse with suspicious tattoos. The SPLC no doubt knows with whom Page spent his time, and can point the investigation in the right direction. And given the tendency for situations such as this to lead to immediately high levels of recrimination, the fact that we have so much concrete info so soon will help not only the investigation but improve the public discourse that will inevitably follow it.

Most of us can ignore things like white supremacist music; but in a time when neo-Nazis can use the internet to metastasize at will, it’s a good thing there are people like Frederickson and organizations like SPLC who are willing to store this noxious stuff in their living room, so that somebody always knows where they are.

* I grew up in the 90s, don’t judge.

The Alternate Existences of Bruce Springsteen

by evanmcmurry

The New Republic, doors always open to the takedown piece, takes down David Remnick’s profile of Bruce Springsteen:

David Remnick’s 75,000-word profile of Bruce Springsteen is another one of his contributions to the literature of fandom. Once again there is a derecho of detail and the conventional view of his protagonist, the official legend, is left undisturbed. It could have been written by the record company. The interminable thing is an inventory of Springsteen (and rock) platitudes, punctuated by the fleeting acknowledgment of a dissent about the deity, but much more interested in access than in judgment. “Springsteen Survives,” the cover of the magazine triumphantly proclaims. Survives what?

Point. And Leon Wieseltier makes some class-war hay out of the fact that the most recent Springsteen encomiums come from guard dogs of the elite. Moral of this and every story: capitalism wins by assimilation, and it always wins. Hard to argue with that.

Here’s where Wieseltier loses me:

DO THESE MEN HAVE ears? The musical decline of Bruce Springsteen has been obvious for decades. The sanctimony, the grandiosity, the utterly formulaic monumentality; the witlessness; the tiresome recycling of those anthemic figures, each time more preposterously distended; the disappearance of intimacy and the rejection of softness.

Maybe. Maybe some of us simply have different ears than Wieseltier. The Rising had softness to match its striving, and there are tracks on Magic and Working On A Dream that are muscular and kinetic as anything Springsteen put out four decades ago. Are these newer songs more contained, intentional, and user-friendly than their ancestors? Yup. That’s what forty years’ll do. It didn’t do it to Tom Waits, but there’s also circa 200 million dollars’ and 100 million albums’ difference between the two men; in fact, it has been argued, by Mr. Waits himself, that his compromise-free career was made possible by Springsteen’s cover of Waits’s “Jersey Girl” and the royalties it brought. You don’t have to please the masses when Bruce Springsteen does it for you.

It might help to crystallize the problem with Wieseltier’s criticism by considering a counterfactual: suppose the Boss didn’t go his bombastic route (and note Wieseltier conveniently ignores Springsteen’s softer, more personal solo albums) and instead remained the syllable-spouting bohemian ferris wheel of a human that he was on his first two albums: if he were still trying to pull off “Rosalita” forty years later, what are the odds that a guy named Leon Wieseltier would be writing a takedown piece in the New Republic about the lack of Springsteen’s artistic growth, and the pathetic spectacle of a guy still following around his own cragged, forty-year-old image? I’d say the odds are pretty freaking good. You can’t please a guy like Wieseltier. Bruce settled instead for pleasing about 100 million people. Who wins here?

Harry Reid Should Make Stuff Up About Romney’s Taxes Until He Releases Them

by evanmcmurry

I can’t be the only person in the world fairly untroubled by Harry Reid’s off-the-cuff (or was it?) claim that Mitt Romney hasn’t paid taxes for past ten years. First, as SEK points out over at Lawyers, Guns & Money, the idea that a claim like Reid’s is beyond the pale went out the window about the time the fourteenth Republican legislator scored points off the birther issue, circa 2010. Guess what? If the GOP can continually cast aspersions about the President’s citizenship without a single bit of evidence to back up the claim, then Harry Reid gets invoke/make up a source to question Mitt Romney’s tax returns. If you don’t like that we live in such a world, I’ve got somebody you should talk to before Harry Reid.

More to the point, this wouldn’t be an issue, not for a single moment, if Mitt Romney released his tax returns, which it’s becoming more and more clear he won’t. If Romney wants to a) run for the highest office in the land, and b) run on his personal history as a money-making individual, then we have every right to demand he release documents testifying to his behavior as that money-making individual, i.e., supporting his claim that he’s qualified to be president. If he doesn’t release the returns, then we have every right to speculate what might be inside of them. Tax evasion? A dinosaur? That copy of the Constitution with the word “suckers” in it? It could be anything. He could have paid a 5% tax rate. He could have paid zero. He could have loss harvested. He could have made a fortune off the economic collapse. He could packaged and resold mortgages.

All Mitt Romney has to do to put an end to such speculation is release his tax returns. As far as I’m concerned, Harry Reid should go out every day and make wild accusations about what’s in those returns until Romney does so.

Addendum: Could Reid potentially be giving Romney an out by making the specter of his returns so bad that when Romney finally releases them, and it turned out he only paid, I dunno, 10%, that actually seems good by comparison? That’s a legitimate worry.

Addendum 2: I’ve heard advanced a theory that this was Romney’s play from the start—to get the Democrats to so freak out about his tax returns that when he finally releases them and they’re no big deal, the Dems look foolish. In which case, good on Romney for playing the long game.


Your Guide To White Nutjobs Writing About Black Olympians

by evanmcmurry

Why does it always have to be about race, etc. If you want the red meat, skip about halfway down.

First, Fox News Sports dude Reid Forgrave dropped his monocle after Serena Williams’s post-Gold celebration:

Then the 30-year-old who will end her career as one of the greatest tennis players of all time did something that could be interpreted two ways: As a stupid and insensitive celebration that dampened the crowning moment, or as a joy-filled nod to her roots.

The woman who grew up in Compton did the Crip Walk.

For the uninitiated, the Crip Walk is a funky little hip-hop dance move made famous by Crip gang members in Compton in the 1970s.

And there was Serena — the tennis legend, the winner of 14 individual Grand Slams, the best player of her generation, the American girl being crowned at the All-England Club as the queen of tennis — Crip-Walking all over the most lily-white place in the world.

Well, I never. Forgrave wants you to know, though, that Serana didn’t do it on purpose: it was unfortunate Compton muscle memory. And just when she was at the doorstep of respectable!

[…] You couldn’t help but shake your head. It was as if Serena just couldn’t seem to avoid dipping into waters of controversy even as she’d ascended to the top of her sport.

“It was just me. I love to dance,” she told a swarm of reporters afterward – every single one of them white. “I didn’t know what else to do. I was so happy, and next thing I know I started dancing and moving. I didn’t plan it. It just happened.”

She was pleading ignorance. She knew that even associating the word “Crip” with a gold-medal performance could be toxic to her image, even if the dance itself is now distanced from those gang roots. A reporter asked what the dance was called. “The Serena?” the reporter suggested. “The Wimbledon?”

Serena just stared at the ground, embarrassed.

“Actually, there is a name. But I don’t know if I — it’s inappropriate,” she dodged. “It’s just a dance we do in California.”

She did totally dodge! Or she just won a Gold medal and became an historically great ahtlete, and was wondering why everybody was asking her about her post-victory dance. Forgrave understands:

But let’s not let her tone of celebration overshadow a stunning performance.

You’re about 250 words too late on that, buddy. Long blah short: if you’re not going to act white, why are you playing a white person’s sport? (See also this nice takedown via Deadspin.)

This next article, however—this one’s a doozie. Debbie Schlussel, whose entire existence seems predicated on the idea that “Muslim” is a misspelling of “terrorist,” takes a break from writing the world’s longest About The Author bio to tackle the scourge of racism in America:

While U.S. Olympic Gold Medalist Gabby Douglas should be celebrating and celebrated for her win as the best female gymnast at this year’s London Olympic Games, she must instead endure racism from America’s most racist segment: her fellow Black women (and some Black men, too).

No, Schlussel has no evidence whatsoever to back up the claim that (B)black women are America’s most racist segment of our country; it’s innate knowledge, apparently the kind you get when you’re a wingnut conservative by the age of 21.

Anyhoo, why’s it always gotta be about race? It can be about class too, you know:

Douglas is beautiful, poised, and in interviews I’ve seen her give, she is well-spoken and classy well beyond her young 16 years (because she’s worked hard and sacrificed the way others her age in America haven’t).

Thaaaat’s the stuff.

And, yet, she’s come under attack from Black women for her hair. If a White person dared say some of the horribly mean things Black women said about Douglas on Twitter (follow me on Twitter), they’d be called out for racism. At least one Black Twitterer called Douglas, “a beast,” because of her hair.

Nice interpolation of your Twitter account. That must be the hard work and sacrifice you were talking about.

But, as we all know, there is a great deal of self-hatred and racism within the Black community that is stronger than anything the Klan could ever posit.

We do all know that. Innately. No need to consider counter examples.

Frankly, I’m not quite sure what the problem with Douglas’ hair is. It looks fine to me, but maybe it’s another one of those fictional “it’s a Black thing–you wouldn’t understand” moments.

Do you follow Reid Forgrave on Twitter? He seems to be an expert on African American culture. You two should DM.

It’s pretty obvious that there’s an element of jealousy by all of these Black women attacking Douglas…Her mother sent her away to predominantly White Iowa to train for years on end. And I think the Black women criticizing her resent this. They won’t openly admit it, but they think this makes her too White–her hard work, her polish, and other characteristics that are sadly viewed as “unhip” in Black American culture today. Ditto for the fact that she speaks English without a Black or Ebonics accent.

Hey, remember Ebonics? Haven’t heard that in about 15 years, have you? Wasn’t it supposed to destroy the English language or something?

You don’t see White people attacking Douglas’ hair. Just Blacks. And maybe there’s also an element of refusal to give up the mantle of victimhood, instead of embracing the “we are the champions” mentality and pride that is appropriate here. Giving up the perks of victimhood is expensive. Leaving the plantation is tough.

Leaving the plantation IS tough. There’s no hard work and sacrifice there. Just the easy life. But I, for one, will not be comfortable with this article unless the idea of slavery is turned back on (B)blacks themselves:

Frankly, Black women should be applauding Douglas for not spending a zillion years as many Black women do, using scar-inducing hot combs and chemical relaxer to constantly smooth her hair. If you’ve seen “Good Hair,” the Chris Rock documentary on this (read my review), or lived amidst Black America (as I do), you know what I mean. It’s a form of slavery to their hair they voluntarily put upon themselves to look more like the White women that they hate.

There is, believe it or not, more. Schlussel didn’t live amidst Black America just to impose a word count on herself. That would be slavery.