March 13, 2013
We are constantly told that the GOP is doomed because it’s the party of straight white men. That may well be true, but few have asked: How can the diverse Democrats hold together? How can special interests as different as blacks and gays be kept in sync?
The answer appears to be: The Obama coalition can stay together only by stoking resentment—and, indeed, hatred—of straight white men. This naked animus is rationalized by projecting the hate felt by the victorious Democrats onto the losers:
We hate straight white Republican men because…they are so full of…uh…hate. Yes, that’s the ticket: We hate them because they are hateful. No, wait, I mean, we hate them because they are hate-filled. They’re practically Ku Klux Klanners.
To service this Hunger for Hate, the prestige press assiduously generates the Democratic Party’s KKKrazy Glue by whipping up fear and loathing over hate crimes, even when they didn’t technically happen.
Last week we were solemnly informed of a one-man KKK rally at Oberlin College. (Apparently it was a lady in a blanket.)
Then the top story on washingtonpost.com last Friday evening was the “mysterious” murder back on February 26th of Marco McMillian. He was a black gay candidate for mayor of Clarksdale in Mississippi, a state with a “dark history of racial brutality,” as the Post helpfully reminded.
A hate crime, right? It’s Mississippi, so what else do you need to know? Clearly, a gang of homophobic redneck Christians had hunted down with their AR-15s the gay black activist bravely challenging Clarksdale’s white power structure. No doubt, County Sheriff Bull Connor III then covered it up, which must be why it’s still big news in the Washington Post a week and a half later.
Thus, a recent Google News search found 1,750 hits for “Marco McMillian” and “hate crime.”
Except for…well, except for everything.
First, the sheriff of Coahoma County, Charles Jones, is black.
And McMillian was running against a local black political dynasty. Clarksdale has had a black mayor for 20 of the last 24 years, Henry Espy. You might vaguely recognize the Espy name because Henry is the brother of Mike Espy, who was Bill Clinton’s first Secretary of Agriculture. One favorite in the race is the mayor’s son Chuck, who just resigned from the Mississippi legislature to run.
As mentioned in countless blues songs—Clarksdale is home to Robert Johnson’s “Crossroads,” where Highway 49 and Bob Dylan’s Highway 61 intersect—the Mississippi Delta is a poor place. Thus, political jobs are sharply contested. The Espy family has spent much time in court on corruption charges but always seems to come out on top.
(The 34-year-old McMillian had himself already figured in a financial scandal when he had been executive assistant to the president of Alabama A&M University. Improprieties in his pay led to the downfall of his boss.)
The New York Times, which embarrassed itself in its initial Oberlin assault-blanket story, actually did a reasonable job of hinting back on February 28th that the dead man’s family was suspicious of the local black power structure:
…the police said they had no reason to suspect that his death was a hate crime.…“I believe it was political,” said one family member.…“Maybe some people didn’t want him to run. Maybe he was a threat. They wanted Clarksdale to stay the same.”
The Times didn’t mention the race of who wants things to stay the same in Clarksdale, but it did link to the hereditary leaders’ pictures:
With the exception of a four-year period during the 1990s, the town has been led since 1989 by Mayor Henry Espy, who has announced that he would not seek another term. Those vying to succeed Mr. Espy include his son, Chuck Espy, a member of the Mississippi House of Representatives.
But how many journalists can be bothered to click on links before hyping their favorite obsession: white hatred and homophobia in Dixie? Very few, apparently.
The bereaved family then issued a press release claiming that the victim had been “beaten, dragged and burned (set afire).” These words triggered a Pavlovian media mania, complete with stock references to the dragging death of James Byrd in Texas and the beating death of Matthew Shepard in Wyoming. (Texas, Wyoming, and Mississippi…why, they all voted for Romney!)
On March 5th, the Times tried to quell the hysteria with another surprisingly responsible story:
A Mississippi mayoral candidate who was found dead last week was not killed by being beaten, burned or dragged, the coroner said on Tuesday, challenging a statement from the victim’s family that the official said was misleading.
But that only had a modest dampening effect on the flames of press hatred.
The most striking thing about McMillian’s “mysterious” murder is its lack of mystery. There’s no need for conspiracy theories because the killer, a poor 22-year-old black man named Lawrence Reed, confessed last month. The cops didn’t even know the missing man was dead until Reed crashed the victim’s stolen SUV on February 26th, then confessed where he’d stashed the body. The auto accident, which might have been an attempt at suicide, happened moments after Reed, who had become friendly with McMillian at a Clarksdale bar, told female friends that he’d strangled the politician with his wallet chain.
That’s about as open-and-shut a case as there is. (The killer’s precise motivation will no doubt be argued over at the trial. Carjacking? Thelma & Louise-style rape resistance? Gay lovers’ quarrel?) But London’s Daily Mail had the black killer’s picture on February 28, more than a week before the Washington Post splashed the story.
One of the reasons the national media keeps making ever-stupider mistakes about local police-blotter items is that pragmatic wisdom about human beings is increasingly demonized as stereotyping. For example, there’s a two-word phrase that ought to have occurred to journalists when thinking about a case involving an affluent 34-year-old gay and a poor 22-year-old, and it’s not “hate crime.” Instead, it’s “rough trade.” But that term seems to have disappeared from public consciousness for being “homophobic” (i.e., not on GLAAD’s Approved List).
When my wife and I owned a condo in Chicago two decades ago, we suddenly started running into strung-out young men on our building’s interior staircase. Who was buzzing in 19-year-olds in black leather? And why?
We figured out that our upstairs neighbor, a fat, middle-aged, effeminate white corporate comptroller, had developed a taste for rough trade.
That’s not extremely rare. Some affluent gay men are fascinated by poor young men of a more masculine demeanor. The Wikipedia article explains:
Often the attraction for the gay male partner is finding a dangerous, even thuggish, partner who may turn violent.
Not surprisingly, bad things sometimes happen to wealthy gays who like to be alone with brutish yobs.
It wouldn’t have been terribly startling if my neighbor’s hobby of trading drugs for sex with barely legal boys had wound up getting him murdered. (I’m glad one of the hustlers he let into our building didn’t break into our condo.) The comptroller’s health soon failed, requiring a colostomy, and he sold his apartment to two male flight attendants who proved to be a wealth of stylish decorating tips.
In the Marco McMillian-Lawrence Reed case, the phrase “rough trade” should have gone off like an alarm in reporters’ heads back in February.
But the concept of rough trade has largely been prodded down the memory hole for the last 15 years. Thus, a Google News search for “Marco McMillian” “rough trade” brings up zero pages.
What happened to this useful concept? When the well-to-do Matthew Shepard left a bar with two meth-heads who were out looking to rob somebody to get a fix, the media hive-mind immediately decided to turn it into an iconic lesson about hate crimes rather than the felony murder it actually was.
Camille Paglia had the bad taste to point out about the Shepard murder:
It used to be called “rough trade”—the dangerous, centuries-old practice of gay men picking up grimy, testosterone-packed straight or semi-straight toughs.
She was excoriated for doing so. And most pundits have less courage than Paglia. So say goodbye to the notion of “rough trade.” As Orwell pointed out in the appendix to 1984, reducing our vocabularies benefits those with political power by making us all stupider.
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