Friday, April 13, 2012

In the heat of Mark Judge's night

You probably have already heard about the horrific travails of Daily Caller writer Mark Judge, which were firing up the blogosphere early this week until the arrest of another great conservative martyr, George Zimmerman. Judge sets the stage for us:
I was at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C., for the Stations of the Cross — the pre-Easter Catholic ritual of recounting the events that happened to Jesus on his way to crucifixion.
Like Jesus, Judge made a great sacrifice, losing a treasure of great value and significance to him, so we could learn the many errors of our ways as we have strayed from the path of righteousness and truth. What was this traumatizing event that happened to this brave, selfless man?

If you don't recognize the above image, and you might not unless you have lots of online time to waste on cat pictures and amusing YouTube videos, it is a famous internet meme. The image is from an innocuous training scene from the video game Mike Tyson's Punch Out!!!, coupled with a fake caption and transformed into a racist stereotype. Like the meme, Judge transformed an otherwise normal and everyday event into a racist parable, casting himself as a two-wheeled Rosa Parks, riding into the sunset of racial justice.

Of course, racism for conservatives is "reverse racism". "Black pain is no different than white pain," Judge writes, which really means "I'm so tired of hearing about Trayvon Martin, let's talk about me and my bike some more."

But his bike, "a sharp silver-blue hybrid from L.L. Bean", wasn't the only thing Judge gave up on that brave Good Friday. Just like Jesus died on Good Friday, so did Mark Judge's "white guilt". His piece is called "The End of My White Guilt".

Okay, hold on a minute. "White guilt?" The white part is true, but I don't believe a word of the rest of this. Most of the bloggers reacting to this have focused on how offensive Judge's piece was, but I don't think anyone has challenged the veracity of the claims he makes about himself. This guy is a conservative Catholic writer for Tucker Carlson's wingnut online magazine, and I'm supposed to believe he had white guilt? This guy, who has hit every conservative dog whistle from the Amistad (slavery, angry blacks killing whites) to Touré (elitist media figures) in this piece, grew up on a diet of Norman Jewison movies? If he still clung to any white guilt, he gave it up pretty quickly. Last year he wrote this piece imagining the deathbed conversion of militant atheist Christopher Hitchens. In it, he mentions he's working on a biography of Whittaker Chambers. I doubt you could find a dozen young Republicans who even know the name Whittaker Chambers, but Judge aspires to be his biographer. Judge's conservatism is fervently religious and it is old school. And yet, we are to believe that he has white guilt?

While bits of it may be true, I don't think what Judge has written here is strictly a factual account. Instead it is a conversion narrative, a Christian genre which tells how once wicked and wayward souls make their way onto the path of goodness and right, like Paul falling off his horse on the road to Damascus. No doubt Judge, who mentions he studied at nearby Catholic University, is familiar with this genre. Conservatives have also transformed it into a political genre. They're fond of the saying "A conservative is a liberal who has been mugged", and Judge's bike mugging is his conversion narrative, detailing how he fell off his bicycle of lingering white guilt, abandoning it for the true path of righteous conservatism. Never mind that any self-respecting modern conservative likely abandoned any white guilt after the third viewing of Sean Hannity's show.

We all know that Fox-era conservatives are not shy about bending the truth, and conservative narratives bend the truth all the time to further their goals. One example that I remember fondly was a message board discussion about Pat Buchanan's presidential run. Now this was a message board we had started up to accompany an alternative campus publication, and it was brand new so there couldn't be more than twenty or thirty people on this board. When I argued that no black people were supporting Buchanan's candidacy despite his odd selection of obscure African-American activist Ezola Foster as running mate, suddenly a black Reform Party voter appeared on this obscure message board on an obscure college campus to accuse me of racism. That was about as plausible as Judge's narrative.

In a particularly implausible section, Judge writes:
When I got home I vented to my friends. I told them I was going to scour those neighborhoods until I found the bike. In reply, a liberal friend gave me a lecture about profiling and told me to just forget about the bike. “That person needs our prayers and help,” she said. “They haven’t had the advantages we have.”
I'm skeptical for several reasons. I don't know much about how Washington works, so maybe Daily Caller wingnuts actually do have liberal friends. If this liberal friend actually said this, however, I think Judge has misinterpreted his friend's remarks. It doesn't seem to me that the alleged liberal friend meant that blacks have blanket permission to steal from whites or that whites should be "leaving valuable things like a bike in a vulnerable position in a black part of town because you didn’t want to admit that the crime is worse in poor black neighborhoods." Maybe there are some extreme Quakers who feel like this, but I haven't met any of them. Instead, it strikes me as a statement of acceptance, trying to find a silver lining and rationalizing things when the universe has violated you in a meaningless way. It was a way of telling Judge to move on with his life instead of dragging himself through the negro streets at dawn looking for his missing bike.

Having things stolen from you, especially things you prize, is hard. I emphasize with his anger while I mock and criticize his misdirected overreaction. And this is where a lot of racism comes from, misdirected anger. Many people become racists when they are the victims of a violent crime at the hands of a person of another race. (Though in Judge's case, of course, the crime was non-violent and he only assumes the perpetrator is black.) I still remember when my house was broken into when I was a kid, but it was the stoner next door who did it, and I didn't start hating whitey as a result.

Racists like Judge don't differentiate between people of other races. They're all one dangerous undifferentiated mass to them, while white people are divided into friends and enemies, good people and assholes. It would be nice if a supposedly educated professional like Judge could realize a simple fact: the guy who stole his bike, if he was black, wasn't a representative of the NAACP, he was just some random asshole. In that, Judge and the thief have something in common.

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