Daily Archives: June 13, 2011

When widgetry and identity politics consign people to living hell.


Here’s an article, I got the link from NOBODY PASSES, Darling.

The article itself is Rich Man’s War, Poor (Gay) Man’s Fight. An excerpt (a long one because my brain won’t let me figure out shorter ones):

The President of the United States, a former Constitutional law professor lately suffering amnesia about the presumption of innocence, declares publicly that “he broke the law.” The United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture, Amnesty International, and the American Civil Liberties Union express grave concern about the conditions of his imprisonment, and the spokesman for the U.S. State Department is forced to resign after calling it “ridiculous and counterproductive and stupid.” A letter signed by 295 noted legal scholars charges that his imprisonment violates the Eighth Amendment prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment and the Fifth Amendment guarantee against punishment without trial, and that procedures used on Manning “calculated to disrupt profoundly the senses or the personality” amount to torture.

The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, and the Human Rights Campaign, having invested millions lobbying for “gays in the military,” have no comment. Of course not. Bradley Manning is not that butch patriotic homosexual, so central to the gays-in-the-military campaign, who Defends Democracy and Fights Terrorism with a virility indistinguishable from that of his straight buddies. He is not that pillar of social and economic stability, only incidentally homosexual, who returns home from the front to a respectable profession and a faithful spouse and children.

No, Bradley Manning is a poor, physically slight computer geek with an Oklahoma accent. He is, let us use the word, and not in a negative way, a sissy. Having grown up in a dysfunctional family in a small town in the South, he is that lonely, maladjusted outsider many gay people have been, or are, or recognize, whether we wish to admit it or not. He broke the law, the President says. And he did so–the liberal press implies, trying terribly hard to temper severity with compassion–because he wasn’t man enough to deal with the pressure. He did so because he’s a sissy and he couldn’t put up with the manly rough-and-tumble that is so important to unit cohesion, like that time three of his buddies assaulted him and instead of taking it like a good soldier he peed in his pants. And then of course he was so embarrassed he threw a hissy fit and sent Wikileaks our nation’s most closely guarded secrets, like some petulant teenage girl who gets her revenge by spreading gossip. This is, of course, the classic argument about gays and national security–they’ll get beat up or blackmailed and reveal our secrets. And NGLTF, Lambda, and HRC, with their impeccably professional media and lobbying campaign, based on the best branding and polls and focus groups that money could buy, have effectively demolished that insidious stereotype.

They have demolished it by abandoning Bradley Manning.

It took a lot of cognitive effort to cut and paste those links, and then choose, cut, and paste the excerpt, not to mention find the words to put in the title and introduction. Yeah, it’s one of those nights. (So far. You never know when the weather in my brain will change without warning, but right now it’s lousy writing weather.) I had wanted to do a post with several links to different articles I’ve found recently, but I realized I’d be lucky if I got this one post written.

Oh and I didn’t write this post to start a debate over whether what’s happening to this guy is justified, so if you feel the need to justify it, do it on your own blog (or on the blog of someone who doesn’t mind hosting such a debate). I wrote it because these sorts of power dynamics among “activist communities” (and indeed the whole structure of such communities) ruin real people’s lives. And so does the use of widget-based morality — something I’ve planned to write more about why it works that way but haven’t had the opportunity. And of course the power dynamics and the widgets are entangled in ways that more than guarantee this level of sheer tangled bassackwardsness.