Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Age of Outrage

So in case you hadn't noticed, the push-back on my little piece last Friday that used "Hoodie-gate" as a jumping off point for a larger discussion on style and perception was swift and merciless. On the After Party that'll be posted a little later this afternoon, Bob and I spent almost the entire show going at each other -- it really did get mildly contentious for a while there -- over my opinions and the reaction to my piece. We also disagreed on whether we as a country had become too sensitive, too eager to be offended and to voice reaction to that offense, and too unwilling to simply let things that piss us off go without demanding immediate redress.

Basically, my views on these subjects can be seen right now in a piece posted over at the Daily Banter. I'm going to begin doing more work for the mothership of this site, and today's column is the first of many to come.

Here's the opening salvo from the piece. Feel free to comment either here or at the Banter.

"All it took was one retweet for the wrath of God to rain down on me.

Last Friday morning I did what a lot of hacky self-proclaimed online pundits were doing in the wake of Geraldo Rivera’s galactically stupid claim that the choice to wear a hoodie is what got Trayvon Martin killed: I penned a quickie column on it for my blog. Like a lot of other ostensible progressives, however, I apparently had the bad form to not heap what I would soon learn was the universally agreed upon level of scornful indignation in Geraldo’s direction. On the contrary, while I said that Geraldo’s idiotic no-hoodie plea to American parents of brown kids was just that, idiotic, I argued that he did manage to touch on a larger issue that deserved at least some consideration..."

Read the Rest at the Daily Banter


Mary Beth said...

I disagreed with a lot of what you said originally about Hoodiegate, but cripes, you put it in the first sentence that Geraldo's dumb.

I guess my point is a) I'm better than your Twitter dopes and b) I love you, man.

J. Dack said...

I get into more or less this same argument with my more liberal friends all the damn time.

The problem in my experience seems to be, I'm saying, from pure logic, what you said. "This is bad but it exists and that needs to be acknowledged."

Then I get a lecture on white privilege. The same one I get any time I disagree with my fellow lefties.

Fundamentally, I think in my case, it's that I don't believe ranting on tumblr or sharing on facebook will change the world. My friends seem to think it's worth a try, and my eye-rolling at the notion of "let's end racial inequality by marching!" somehow means I don't care because, hey, I'm white.

Evolution, be it biological or social, takes a long time. Fighting about it online ain't gonna speed things up.

(I realize I'm preaching to the choir, sorry.)

Tom said...

I think people are angry over the context used as a jumping-off point for the conversation.

People aren't (or at least shouldn't be) furious over the "you're judged by how you dress" conversation. If the conversation trigger had "been being denied entrance to a restaurant", or "didn't get a job because you turned up for a job interview in a hoodie", no-one would have batted an eye.

But the jumping off point is a child, shot dead in the street. That changes the whole discussion into something *very* different. Do you disagree?

As another example, take the slut-shaming problem: It's not that you *can't* tell women how to dress. Society does that 24 hours a day: what colors match, what doesn't match, what makes you look demure, classy, casual. What works for a job interview, what works on the town.

However, as soon as you're standing (figuratively) over a rape victim and saying "well, we should talk about what you were wearing that night" it's a totally different conversation, even if it *sounds* like it's still just about dress sense.

You might not agree with me, but do you see what I mean?

Atlantalee said...

Just read this and thought of your post. It's beautifully written and fucking sad. Great commentary on the case.


Anonymous said...

Chez makes a great point. We can’t deny that how we dress effects how people perceive us. We all use this reality to our advantage, but it can also have consequences, sometimes tragically. Why are we screaming about who worn what in this case, when the real issue is why do some people feel they need to be armed guardians of their neighborhoods? The NRA is thanking all of you for changing the subject.

Michael J. West said...

I think Tom absolutely nails it. It's exactly what I was trying to say last week in the original discussion but with the much better word "context" in place of my "timing."

You were frustrated because people were applying what you said to the Trayvon Martin case instead of to a larger picture. But the Trayvon Martin case was the frame in which Geraldo spoke, and by responding to Geraldo you took on that frame yourself. Regardless of when, and how many times, you said "Trayvon Martin aside, there's a real point to be had here," Trayvon Martin couldn't be cast aside, and he wasn't beside the point. He was as integral to the conversation as the hoodie was.

But on the other hand, I don't really agree with you on this one, even if we do divorce Trayvon from it. "If you don't want to be killed by bigots, don't dress like X" is just too much like "If you don't want to be arrested for 'Driving While Black,' then take the bus." You don't end bullying by submitting to the bully.

Chez said...

Bullshit, Michael. You don't have to submit to anything. You don't have to dress or behave to appease idiots or the lowest common denominator or what-have-you. All you have to know is what you're getting yourself into by going against the grain. I'm all for going against the grain and pissing people off for no good reason -- but I don't have the nerve to react with shock when people respond the way I damn well knew or should've known they would when I dress or behave a certain way. That simple.

T Bickle said...

I think one of the reasons newspapers have declined as an industry while blogs and on-line media have risen is that newspapers controlled the editorials. You were lucky if deemed worthy by the editors posting your letter.

But the editors also understood the value of the *pause*.

Our opinions on issues shape as quickly as they change with new information, but once that stupid post or tweet is sent to the WWW, there ain't no taking it back.

The Trayvon martin story continues to shift, and we watch with rabid fascination. All the while; blame the media for feeding what we demand.

My analysis tells me that Trayvon Martin essentially being profiled as a thug (insert race if you will) is why the confrontation happened. Add to that, a grown man was unwilling to let go of his under-21, gladiator instincts.

Trayvon certainly did not deserve to die for whatever it is he was doing or did. In the same breath, for anyone to deny that the risks associated with the choice of appearance society are very intertwined with this tragedy is being disingenuous or willfully blind or ignorant.

Never said it was right. Just saying that it is.

kanye said...

The reason that so many people reacted the way that they did is because the things that you said are incredibly condescending.

The thought that you were trying to convey or point that you were trying make...however you want to refer to it...is something that we've all understood since childhood: Instinctively, by the age of two, and absolutely, by the age of five. And I need look only to my own daughter for confirmation.

I'll never forget this: She was in kindergarten, getting ready for school, and she hollered out, "Dad, have you seen my skinny jeans?" Five years old.

She's eight now, and when I observe her and her friends: At how they interact with one another; when I listen to the things that they say, I'm always struck with the realization that this group of second-grade girls is as socially-aware as any group of forty-year-old women that I've ever encountered. They can be just as catty as well.

When you speak to people as if they were children, they are going to react strongly.

It's that simple, Chez.

Chez said...

Again, bullshit. It's astonishing the obvious points that so many people seem to miss these days or simply refuse to accept. Nothing wrong with highlighting that and it's kind of funny that you use this particular post to suddenly decide that I'm being condescending seeing as how the tone of it was no different from what you've been reading here for years, Kanye.

Jester said...

I'm curious: why not post the new entries on your blog, then submit them to be syndicated to Daily Banter, similar to what you do for HuffPo? That way, people can read the entries where they like.

Is Daily Banter suffering for page-views so much that they have to directly steal content from member sites?

Chez said...

Because I'm not directly affiliated with the Huffington Post -- I am with Banter. Ben's working to get Banter off the ground as a potential new outlet for independent online writing and Bob and I are stepping up to help him do it. By writing a little about it here and linking there, I get the best of both worlds. I honestly didn't think anyone would worry too badly where they were reading my nonsense as long as it was coming out. Plus this is pushing me to write more. Not sure how far all of this will go, but I don't have an issue doing it for now.

kanye said...

Obvious points? You mean like not being able to discern the difference between calling you condescending and saying something that you wrote was condescending? Those obvious points?

And this idea that I've “suddenly decide[d]” something. How could know that? You can't. You have no idea what conclusions that I've come to, or when I may or may not have come to them. It's purely assumptive on your part, and that's always a mistake.

Then there's tone: You are the single least-qualified person on the face of this planet to judge your tone, as we all are, when it comes to judging ourselves. You're right, I have been here for years--over half-a-decade--and in that time I've seen you run the full gamut of emotions: Ups, downs and all of the in-betweens. All the swings, from extreme to slight, and without exception, moreso than even the words themselves, it's always been the tone of your writing that's served as the mirror which most-accurately reflects your disposition, your mindset, at the time of writing.

Your tone is like a Duncan Imperial at a yoyo competition, Chez: All over the fucking place. Your style-- declarative, authoritative, forceful...that's consistent...but your tone? No way.

Think I'm wrong? Go back and read these two recent pieces of yours. Then read the piece that you wrote about the young woman who was gunned down at her college. Read the piece about the time you and Inara went to the...the arboretum I guess it was...when she handed a flower to a stranger. Finally, go read that piece you wrote about Jayne; the one that was really nothing more than a string of declarative sentences that you managed to sew together so beautifully.

Try and read those pieces not as the writer, but rather as we would. If you can do that, bring some dispassion to the exercise, you'll see that I'm right; that while your style is dead consistent, your tone varies greatly.

btw—I don't think you're condescending, Chez.

Chez said...

There's no denying that the stuff I write reflects a lot of my emotion, inner turmoil, pain, grief, joy, etc. -- and that means that my "tone" can indeed vary greatly. What I was referring to was the way I tend to write and the tack I tend to take when I am actually cranking out these kinds of pieces -- as opposed to ones about my past, my personal life, relationships and so on. They're confrontational and generally pretty declarative.

And of course I appreciate your readership, Kanye. But it's an odd distinction between saying that someone is writing condescending things and saying that someone is being condescending.

Regardless, I value your opinion so I'm not going to debate you on it.