Politics by Scandal

I didn’t like having my country’s character be identified with an illiterate, criminal loudmouth for the last four years. Nor do I like seeing it today identified with a drug-addled, 21-year-old racist mass murderer.

“He doesn’t speak for me” worked then as now.

Since I still choose to live and work here, I don’t have the luxury of seeing those lunkheads as anything other than aberrations. It’s the responsibility of every person with a shred of decency to abhor, abjure and execrate such schmucks. Get them off the air and into jail. Then let the rest of us repair the damage they’ve done.

When attention spans are short and analytical abilities are frayed, the loudest, most emotionally wracking spectacles take the place of historical perspective, judgment, comparison, and constructive courses of action. I can see the community of interest between Covid and schlocky journalism. If we are just eyeballs for sale, captive animals scrolling all day long, we bounce from scandal to scandal because nothing else is attention-worthy.

I don’t think it’s good. Which is not to say that I think the people who are having emotional reactions are wrong. I just am wary of the actions of keyed-up and suggestible people. All of them.

Then again, somebody I know (Asianist, not Asian) thought this was the designated moment to harangue his Facebook audience about the lack of MLA sessions devoted to Asian literature.* Academic self-promotion disguised as concern: classic opportunism. I guess every murder has a bright side for somebody.

* For those unfamiliar with the organization, the Modern Language Association began to take an interest in Asian literatures– and then only a small number of them– about ten years ago. The Association for Asian Studies is still the main forum for Asianists. Both are perfectly ok professional organizations. The latter includes anthropologists, economists, historians, and even a few soldiers, diplomats, and spies, making it quite a bit more interdisciplinary than the MLA. I have belonged to both organizations for about thirty years.

One thought on “Politics by Scandal

  1. Another kind of opportunism– the signs printed up by the PSL (Party for Socialism and Liberation) and carried by some demonstrators, drawing a parallel between the slogans “Stop Anti-Asian Racism Now!” and “Peace With China Now!” See for example https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=149818017032823. I wonder what exactly “Peace With China” would entail, as we are not currently at war with the PRC. Between the US and China there are a number of legitimate disagreements in the areas of trade, intellectual property, international law, law of the seas, democratic norms, human rights, and so on. Does “peace with China” mean giving up on protecting Taiwan and Hong Kong, forgetting about the Uyghurs in prison camps, and endorsing the clampdown on dissent within the PRC? Only in the minds (or wishes) of the CCP is every criticism of China “China-bashing.” I looked into the policy statements of the PSL, and though I haven’t discovered who is bankrolling them, they are not doing a good job of educating their public. Although they take a stand against sexism and fascism (good for them!), their materials addressing the Atlanta spa murders advance, in a signal use of the Evasive Passive, that “Women of colonized nations such as Korea, China, Phillipines [sic], Vietnam, etc., have historically been trafficked for sexual slavery during wartime, commonly known as ‘comfort women’.” (Quoting _Liberation News_.) You might forget that the comfort women were recruited and exploited by Asian men for other Asian men in the course of an imperialist war by Asians against Asians. My aim’s not to let white supremacy of the hook– but, as the Evasive Passive so often deliberately omits to say, it isn’t the only game in town.

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