The GOP War on Civility March 14, 2012Posted by Mary W. Matthews in Politics, Tea Party.
I’ve been following the Republicans’ war on women for almost two years now, but it was not until two weeks ago, when Rush Limbaugh unloaded an unprecedented three-day volcano of vitriol upon a woman who was a stranger to him, that I started thinking I was going to HAVE to write about it.
The 2010 election cycle saw the nation’s first tsunami of hate and lies, as the Scalia Supreme Court’s adventure in legislating from the bench, Citizens United, invited Republicans to flood the airwaves with excrement. To “win” this election, the Tea Party and its Republican enablers promised Fox News True Believers that the GOP’s next two years would be about the creation of jobs. This was, of course, a feint; the GOP has succeeded only in destroying hundreds of thousands of jobs: teachers, police officers, fire fighters, EMTs, librarians, trash collectors, and other public servants. (But don’t worry! The wealthy still have their tax privileges!)
Instead of jobs, the GOP has focused its energies on rolling back women’s rights, largely in the areas of redefining rape to exclude most forms of rape and redefining “legal” to add unnecessary and demeaning barriers between women and their legal rights. Approximately 1,100 bills were introduced in 2011, both in Congress and in state legislatures across the nation, to make it more difficult for women to obtain health care services or for organizations receiving even a cent of public money to offer them. So far in 2012, 430 no-choice bills have been introduced, which means we’ll probably set another record in 2012 for GOP misogyny-cum-theocracy.
By the end of 2011, 135 rollbacks of women’s rights had been enacted. Nine states have passed laws requiring that women who want to obtain one particular legal health care service must submit to what the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution calls an “unreasonable search.” Every Republican candidate for president has announced his unalterable opposition to a woman’s right to control her own body in general and Planned Parenthood in particular. (Apparently when the world population topped seven billion, overpopulation ceased to be a problem.) Seven-plus states have either defunded Planned Parenthood or are well on the way to doing so. In addition, many Republican-dominated states have passed laws rolling back the voting rights of women, minorities, the elderly, students, and other voting blocs suspected of leaning Democratic. Republicans appear through their actions to believe that they can’t win through fair play, but only by rigging the game in their own favor.
I’m a little hazy on whether it was World War II or the Korean “police action,” but in the middle of the 20th century, when the U.S. government was forced to impose wage and price controls, adding group health insurance benefits was a way to sweeten the offer to a potential employee. I need to stress here, for readers who have been education-damaged by Republican propaganda, that group health insurance in the United States is one part of employment compensation, earned by the individual employee; it is neither a disinterested gift from the employer nor a “bridge to nowhere” of government taxation.
People are finally beginning to notice that “a stitch in time saves nine”; or in other words, preventive health care practices, such as brushing and flossing one’s teeth, cost far less than either shutting the barn door after the horse has escaped or buying a new horse. Getting a shot for tetanus, diphtheria, or the mumps is less expensive than losing a month of work to disease, or losing one’s fertility or even one’s life. Annual mammograms cost a tiny fraction of the cost of mastectomy plus radiation plus chemotherapy plus lost time and productivity. Contraceptives cost pennies; abortions cost hundreds of dollars; and rearing a child from birth until he’s old enough for no-choicers to sentence him to the electric chair costs tens of thousands of dollars.
It is not unreasonable for a health care plan to offer preventive health services; it’s thrifty. But not quite three weeks ago, the GOP seized upon what it saw as a winning tactic: requiring health care plans to offer preventive health services to women has suddenly become an infringement on the right of an employer to impose its religious dogma on its employees. The horror! (Boner pills, of course, remain men’s sacred, inalienable right.)
A few days after the GOP began its latest propaganda campaign in its war on women’s rights, a group of white male Republican legislators invited a group of white male alleged celibates to testify before Congress about how providing preventive health services to the female employees who had earned those services infringed on men’s right to control their female employees’ sex lives. A Georgetown University law student requested the opportunity to testify before the theocrats’ committee on the subjects of polyovarian cystic syndrome, rape, and family planning. The white male theocrats repulsed her, of course; what does denying religious freedom to women have to do with men’s religious freedom, after all?
Barred from the theocrats’ hearing, the law student testified before a committee of Democrats about polyovarian cystic syndrome, rape, and family planning.
The next day, Rush Limbaugh decided to weigh in. The uncrowned king of the Tea Puppets spent much of the next three days vilifying the law student, by name, and in horrifying, nauseating detail. He declared that the not-yet-licensed lawyer was even more of a nymphomaniac than Messalina (not that I think ANY Republican is well educated enough to know who Messalina was!). The poor law student is allegedly such a nymphomaniac that her “Slut’s Progress” began several years before her menses did. Limbaugh declared that if he and other taxpayers have to pay for nymphomaniacal sex, he wants to watch. And many more, similar falsehoods designed specifically to shame all women out of the public arena and back to barefooted pregnancy where we belong.
When the sane members of American society voiced their outrage at Limbaugh’s insane attacks, Rush’s first and second responses were to double down. Finally, after three days of vicious slanders — 46, 53, or 56 slanders, depending on the friendliness of the person counting — Rush apologized for two of the terms he had used. He was only joking, he claimed, exaggerating to show the “absurdity” of the idea that NOT all feminazis are nymphomaniacs. His three days of nonstop vilification of Sandra Fluke by name was not meant to be “personal.” The entire controversy was, after all, about sluts’ and prostitutes’ “personal sexual recreational activities,” which fine, upstanding, Limbaugh-believing Americans ought not to have to pay for. By vilifying one young woman about whom he knew nothing, poor victimized Rush was only “attempting to be humorous.”
What a heartfelt apology! No wonder all Rush’s advertisers are loyally buying more ads.
Other pundits have written thousands of words on this subject. Frank Bruni, for example, had sensible ideas to offer on why sexual vilification is so much easier for women than for men; promiscuity makes a woman a “slut,” but a man is who engages in the same behavior is a “dawg,” and envied by lesser men. Many commenters have pointed out that Rush is no stranger to gender-specific vilification; all women who want to control their own bodies are “feminazis”; a woman who wrote a book on food justice is “a recently graduated authorette”; Lucia Mutikani is an “infobabe”; humorist Alexandra Petri is “b-i-itchy”; Hilary Clinton is “sex-retary” of state; and on, and on, and on, and on.
Republican pundits have seized on one word spoken by Bill Maher during his stand-up act to “prove” that Democrats are the true vilifiers and Republicans the true victims. As if one word spoken to an audience of a few hundred college students outweighs hundreds of lies repeated over the span of many days to an ignorant, credulous, hyperpartisan audience of millions.
Still others of Rush’s defenders attempt to change the terms of the debate. We’ll accept that all women who want to make their own health decisions are nymphomaniacs, Independent Bill Maher implied: Rush “apologized,” so we should all just let the matter drop. Republican Paul Theroux informed us that Rush’s “offensive hyperbole” is “little more than flapdoodle,” and we should all care more about Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Iran, and the price of gasoline than about whether all sluts ought to have the same human rights that white men enjoy. And, notably, Theroux concluded “there is a vicious taint of self-indulgence, if not sluttiness, in a female student’s clamoring for a federal mandate of subsidized contraceptives.”
There it is again: the GOP lie that rights that have been earned by female citizens are actually “a federal mandate” requiring that theocrats “subsidize” sluts’ orgies.
Satire. Changing the national discussion from whether female employees deserve the health-care rights they have earned as part of their compensation for employment to whether all “overeducated” women (Rush’s term) are sluts and prostitutes is “satire.”
Theroux continued: Democrats are “shrill” and “illiterate” and “have no idea what satire actually is.” Those who object to Limbaugh’s vicious persecution of an innocent stranger are “irrationally indignant.” We should all remember, Theroux says, that when Republicans were persecuting Bill Clinton for doing much less than what Newt Gingrich was doing during the same period, Arkansas Governor Clinton was “assisting in the murder” of Ricky Ray Rector (an Arkansas felon sentenced to death by a largely Republican jury for killing citizen Arthur Criswell and police officer Robert Martin).
Yesterday I saw, twice, a new Republican attack on President Obama that featured Pat Boone talking in a reassuringly folksy way about the evils of small-d democracy. In the space of 30 to 60 seconds (I was too appalled to time it), old Pat spouted lie after lie after lie (“Medicare will be bankrupt in nine years!”), ending by urging viewers to call their legislators and demand that the U.S. “save” Medicare by adopting the Ryan plan to end Medicare in favor of vouchers. The only true statement I heard in this ad was “I’m Pat Boone”!
The controversy is metastacizing, too. The comments section of any article skeptical of Rush Limbaugh’s nobility, a true knight sans peur et sans reproche, is subject to mountains of illiterate vilification from dittoheads, some under feminine aliases. When President Obama announced his intention to speak at Barnard College, Barnard students were subjected to an avalanche of libels more vile than the dittoheads’ idol could have ever dreamed of. I imagine Rush is quite proud. . . .
It is mildly comforting, I suppose, that Republicans believe it will be impossible for them to win any future election by using facts, logic, truth, fair play, or civility. But where can we go from here when the desire of one anonymous citizen to testify about women’s health in the 21st century becomes transformed into a national conversation about what Jennifer Granholm calls sexual McCarthyism? When any means justifies the GOP’s desired end, including baseless slander, libel, distortion, misrepresenation, and deliberate lies?
What the hell kind of government will we get from men who have no compassion, no conscience, and no compunctions?
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I have tried to be as dispassionate as I could in this post, but the truth is I’m finding Blimpbaugh’s vicious misogyny sickening. The illustration you see here is a Café Press design, Proud That Rush Limbaugh Thinks I’m a Slut. You can buy T-shirts, stickers, cards, mugs, and other goodies with this design.
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Republicans have been quick to note that I have been less than civil in a post entitled “The GOP War on Civility.” It’s true. THEY WON!