Hell Yes, I’m Intolerant

 

 

Hell Yes, I’m Intolerant

By Joanna Schroeder

 

The other day on Facebook a friend of mine shared his thoughts on the Coca Cola ad set to the song “America the Beautiful.” My friend’s status said, “If this bothered you… I don’t even know what to say to you. Get a brain.”

This seems like an obvious sentiment. If you’re bothered by “America the Beautiful” being sung in other languages or by images of happy people doing fun things while being unapologetically whatever race or religion they are, then you do need a brain.

I don’t think anyone was surprised by the fact that some people hated the ad. Racism is alive and well, and it’s something people of color experience all the time, in all sorts of ways. Hating “America the Beautiful” because it portrayed America the Diverse is par for the course in a nation peppered with intolerant bigots.

But what did surprise me were the people who commented on my friend’s status by saying (paraphrased), “I don’t agree with the people who were angry about the ad. But it doesn’t bother me that they hated it. Why should I care?”

I had to stop and do a double-take at this.

Really? It doesn’t bother you that people are being racist? Not at all?

It was hard for me to resist typing, “You are a moron and I hope you fall in a deep, deep hole.” Instead, I said, “Of course it doesn’t bother you that people are racist. You are white. Why would it bother you that people don’t like non-white people?”

The response that I got was fascinating (again, paraphrasing).

“No,” said one racist-who-thinks-she’s-not, “I, unlike you, am not intolerant of other people’s opinions.”

This forced me to consider whether I was, in fact, being intolerant.

I am most certainly sometimes stupid, and quite often blind to the realities that people of color (or other marginalized groups) face on a day-to-day basis, primarily because no matter how hard I try, my privileges can make it hard for me to see outside of my own experience. I work hard to simply keep my mouth shut and listen so as to avoid being stupid and perpetuating more stupid… But I don’t think of myself as “intolerant”.

But then I thought about the actual meaning of that word and I realized that, YES, I am intolerant.

From Merriam-Webster:

in·tol·er·ant

adjective -rənt

: not willing to allow or accept something

: not willing to allow some people to have equality, freedom, or other social rights

See what she did there? She took a word that is contextually understood to mean one thing (essentially, bigoted or racist) and twisted it around so that she could sound righteous by exploiting the fact that it also means, basically, “not putting up with your stupid shit.”

I suspected that this must have a Fox News origin, and so I went digging. I Googled “leftist intolerance” and found a lot of really amazingly terrible clips wherein Fox News pundits call liberals hypocrites because we, the liberals, are the ones who are intolerant of them and their racism and anti-gay agendas.

Here’s one really painful example, though I have to warn you before you click through that it is a clip of five (not one, not two, but FIVE) white people talking about the NAACP and US Senator Tim Scott (who is Black), and how generally terrible they think the NAACP is to Black people. I’m not embedding it for obvious reasons.

After all of that, I realized that yes, I am intolerant and I’m proud of it!

I’m intolerant of white people being assholes about “America the Beautiful” being sung in non-English languages. I’m intolerant of people who say that people of color or non-Christian folks don’t represent our nation.

I’m intolerant of people who say that our LGBTQ+ brethren don’t deserve equal treatment under a Constitution and Bill of Rights that affords all people the same rights.

I’m intolerant of people referring to young Black men as thugs when they, themselves, are the ones who think gunning down unarmed boys, girls, women, and men who aren’t committing any crimes (or even trying to commit crimes) is an okay and legal thing to do. I’m intolerant of your racist thuggery, racist white people.

I’m intolerant of a lot, really. I’m intolerant of people who abuse children, of people who commit rape, and of people who deny the reality of how often rape and sexual violence happens in this nation to men, women, boys, girls and everyone else.

I’m intolerant of people who think that being transgender is something we can just tell people to stop being and that it will magically work. I’m intolerant of those who choose to mis-gender someone who very clearly has told you that she is a woman.

I’m intolerant of the parents and teachers who think it’s okay to let kids say “f*g” or “pussy” or “queer” to kids like the boy who likes My Little Pony and is now on life support after trying to take his own life. I’m intolerant of the adults who modeled that hate to their children. Yes, shaming kids who don’t conform to the strictest gender binary is hate. Pure and simple. And it is killing kids.

I’m intolerant of the people who tell my friend’s daughter that her gorgeous natural hair is a problem for them. I’m intolerant of the toy companies that don’t offer enough dolls that look like all the kids in the world, so that each child can have a baby doll that represents an image she or he can relate to (I’m looking at you, American Girl).

I’m intolerant of people who perpetuate myths about the nature of Islam, and I’m intolerant of the people who scrawled racist graffiti across the gorgeous GAP ad featuring Sikh-American Waris Ahluwahlia, implying he and anyone else in a turban is a terrorist.

I’m intolerant of people who refuse to see the pain and disrespect brought to Native Americans by the unauthorized use of Native mascots, names and iconography. I’m intolerant of the white folks who think they have some right to Wahoo the Indian or the name “Redsk*ns“.

I’m intolerant of this nation of bullies that gets off on thinking that the only real way to be American is to be white, non-poor, Christian, educated, able-bodied, cis-gendered, un-scarred by emotional or physical abuse, and straight. And I’m intolerant of all of you who think that it’s okay to say absolutely nothing to the people in your life who are harming others through any sort of racism, abuse or bigotry.

Hell yes, I’m intolerant of your willingness to tolerate others’ hate.

This article originally appeared at The Good Men Project and is reprinted here with permission of the publisher.

***

Joanna Schroeder is the type of working mom who opens her car door and junk spills out all over the ground. She serves as Executive Editor of The Good Men Project and is a freelance writer whose work has appeared on sites like xoJane, hlntv.com, and The Huffington Post. Schroeder loves playing with her sons, skateboarding with her husband, and hanging out with friends. Her dream is to someday finish her almost-done novel and get some sleep. Follow her shenanigans on Twitter.

Gawker is Defending Snark and It’s Such a Good Feeling To Explain Why They Are Wrong

Mr. Rogers

Gawker is Defending Snark and It’s Such a Good Feeling To Explain Why They Are Wrong

by Allan Mott

This past Thursday, Gawker published an essay by Tom Scocca entitled “On Smarm.” And while it spends a lot of time discussing this titular subject an equally apt title would have been “In Defense of Snark”. That’s because its thesis is that the use of snark (as found on websites like Gawker) is a direct reaction to the nefarious influence of smarm—which Scocca describes as a patriarchal tool used to squash truth and debate through the oppressive policing of tone and insincere advocation of  kindness.

It’s an eloquent essay full of memorable insights, but it is also an extremely self-serving one based on a crucial miscalculation and made possible by the essential arrogance that snark thrives on to exist—the idea that the author alone possesses access to undeniable truths the rest of us are either too stupid or cowed by our cultural overlords to uncover ourselves.

This response isn’t going to be anywhere as long or detailed as Scocca’s essay, but having read it and seen it praised by people whose opinions I respect, I feel compelled to point out where I see he has erred and/or is blind to his own failings. And I hope to do so in a way that proves it is possible to express a negative critical opinion without using the specific rhetorical tool he works so long and hard to defend.

The first bump in his argument came for me in the section where Scocca nominates popular Gawker target Dave Eggers as “the most significant explicator of the niceness rule….” Eggers crime? An email interview the author and publisher wrote 13 years ago in which he said, “Do not dismiss a book until you have written one, and do not dismiss a movie until you have made one, and do not dismiss a person until you have met them.”

Scocca’s response to this is one of incredulity:

Do not dismiss … a movie? Unless you have made one? Any movie? The InternshipThe Lone Ranger? Kirk Cameron’s Unstoppable? Movie criticism, Eggers is saying, should be reserved for those wise and discerning souls who have access to a few tens of millions of dollars of entertainment-industry capital. One or two hundred million, if you wish to have an opinion about the works of Michael Bay.

Scocca might have been justified here if Eggers was truly saying that you had to have the exact same experience to properly appreciate and judge a creative work, but that’s an assumption he clearly makes because it is convenient to him and allows him to glibly decry it with examples of movies of dubious merit. (Reading the full essay you’ll note that he doesn’t show similar outrage over the other two subjects Eggers notes, because neither writing a book or meeting people allow for the same level of hyperbole).

And while I cannot speak to what exactly Eggers had in his head when he typed out those words, as someone who has expressed similar sentiments in the past, I would tell Scocca that no, you do not have to make a major studio blockbuster to criticize one, because the experience of simply attempting to put together a no-budget digital short in your own backyard is more than enough to provide valuable insights into the often heartbreaking realities of filmmaking—where the best of intentions are often inevitably undone by forces beyond the filmmaker’s control.

What Scocca fails to realize is that in this statement, Eggers is not pushing for “niceness” but empathy—the ability to put yourself in the place of the artist and to appreciate the inherent difficulties of creating any work of art, much less a good one.

But is it important for a critic to feel empathy? Well, that depends on what you believe the purpose of criticism is—to improve the culture we live in or to destroy it so that it can be rebuilt in the image we’d prefer. Scocca clearly believes in the latter, so it makes sense that he would be offended by the thought he might be asked to show sympathy for the artists he and his fellow Gawker contributors snark against in the name of their anit-smarm revolution.

To the snarkful, those artists are working in service of a status quo they deplore and thus must be brought down to Earth via their dismissive wit. And what is that status quo? One in which the snarker is forced to write about others, rather than be written about themselves.

Because that is what lies in the beating heart of the condescension through which snarkery thrives—anger over the idea that someone else has made their way into the spotlight that the snarkers covet for themselves. It is the most obvious response to a system that is often arbitrary and unfair, abetted by decades worth of academic criticism arguing that the critic serves a greater role in the creation of art than the artist (Author? What author?).

Scocca pitches the battles of snark vs. smarm as one of truth vs. lies and this is relevant and true in the sections where he specifically focuses on hypocritical calls to civility from political opportunists looking to deflect honest assessments of their records, but the problem is that this ignores the fact that the majority of snark seen online is aimed at pop culture and that is an arena where the concept of “truth” is at best highly questionable.

Because as insightfully as any critic assesses a work of pop culture, they are still always operating in the world of subjective opinion—not objective fact. When it comes to the new Miley Cyrus album, there are no universal truths. Some will love it. Some will hate it. Both will be able to defend their positions and neither will be more wrong or right than the other.

More often than not the reason why some will praise a work is the exact same reason others will decry it, so to suggest that one group possesses wisdom that the other lacks—as the snarkers frequently do—isn’t battling against tyranny, it’s just creating a new one where only one opinion is considered enlightened and all others are dismissed as deluded and wrong.

Scocca does precisely this himself when he writes:

Whether a work is…any good is beside the point… we have an entire class of art or entertainment that relies on other art, parasitically, for its protection or certification. Julia Child…became a beloved and admired figure, so how could Julie & Julia be greeted with anything but love…? “Swan Lake” is essential to the classical canon, so Black Swan must be taken seriously… .

When we detach ourselves from the logic of smarm, it becomes possible instead to read Julie & Julia as a chilling portrait of sociopathy, and Black Swan as hysterical junk….

With this, Scocca specifically states that his rejection of smarm gives him a special insight unavailable to those of us still caught in its web. He informs us why many of us praised these specific movies and why we were foolish to do so. He never once considers the possibility that there might be other reasons for appreciating them.

Maybe I enjoyed Julia & Julia because it featured one of my favourite performances by an actor who I personally believe is one of the greatest to ever work in film? Maybe I was especially touched by its depiction of Child’s unique relationship with her husband? And it seems weird to tell me that I only recommendedBlack Swan to others because it references “Swan Lake”—a ballet I’ve never actually seen or feel any particular connection to. The possibility that I might have empathized with Portman’s insecurity and resulting descent into madness is discounted because Scocca believes it is “hysterical junk” and his detachment “from the logic of smarm” apparently makes this analysis irrefutable.

What Scocca’s essay fails to acknowledge is that it is entirely possible to engage in intelligent, thoughtful negative criticism without being condescending or engaging in the self-satisfied cheap shots that define the snark oeuvre. It’s just much harder, because the one thing snark really has going for it is that it is by far the easiest method of public discourse. All one has to do is strike a tone of superior dismissiveness, find fault and run with it for as long as inspiration welcomes.

Being negative in a way that is actually constructive, though, can require real work. It forces you to consider what you are saying and how your subject will react to it. This is something you never have to do with snark, because its whole point is to dehumanize the person you are discussing—to turn them into a thing you can mock for page views and general amusement. Sometimes the crimes of the subject are such that they deserve this kind of treatment, but most often their basic humanity is robbed from them for no other reason than the snarker’s own amusement.

That’s why when I criticize the use of snark, I am not doing so in the defense of smarm and my own desire to silence dissent. I do so because it treats people like things and when we treat people like things it makes the world a worse place to live in. I rally against rudeness not in the name of preserving the patriarchy and the status quo, but because these discourtesies rob us of our humanity—without them we are nothing more than inconvenient impediments to other people’s desires. Civility is not being nice to allow the wicked and corrupt to flourish, it’s the acknowledgement that how we treat each other is the only thing keeping our civilization from collapsing. Being polite is not an act of submission, but an acknowledgement that there is a world greater than us that we are just a part of—that we do not stand alone in the centre of the universe.

But the crucial miscalculation in Scocca’s argument is that the only reason smarm is the antithesis to snark is because both are equally flawed as rhetorical devices. By reacting as it does against the forces he laments snark does as much damage as it prevents. It’s fighting toxic waste with toxic waste—a defence that only leads to more cultural pollution, not less.

No, the true weapon against both smarm and snark is sincerity. To clearly and honestly engage in a debate without invective or adornment and trust that those who you are arguing with are doing so based on their true principles and beliefs and not merely for attention, ego, profit or entertainment.

Sure, it sounds boring, but it doesn’t have to be. My personal hero is a man whose entire existence was devoted to being sincere and whose innate kindness was not a ruse or a tactic, but the defining trait that made him special and unique in a world that needed him to exist. Because I am a flawed person I often fail to follow in his example and engage in the exact same kind of behavior I’ve spent nearly 2000 words arguing against, but his existence proves that we can rise above the battle Scocca describes—we are not obligated to take a side. We can be polite, thoughtful and kind without automatically furthering the ends of those who attempt to hide their corruption behind such principles—we can do so simply because it’s what Mr. Rogers taught us.

 

This article originally appeared at The Good Men Project and is reprinted here with permission of the publisher.

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Allan Mott was once accused of being a narcissistic goth lesbian by a disgruntled Amazon reviewer. That pretty much sums up his writing career (which includes 12 and 1/2 books and frequent contributions to such sites as XOJane, XOJaneUK, Canuxploitation, Bookgasm, and Flick Attack). His most personal writing can be found at VanityFear.com, where he uses the subject of B-Movies to mostly talk about boobs and stuff. Tweet him @HouseofGlib.

Little Known Bible Verses (Preceded by a Rather Long Note) or Why You Won’t Find This Piece on The Good Men Project

Editor’s Note: I knew within minutes of reading Rion Amilcar Scott’s essay that it deserved a home here, and I’m thrilled and proud for this to be the first piece I’ve selected for publication as a recent addition to the editorial team at As It Ought to Be. I am a big fan of The Good Men Project and the meaningful work they’re doing (see here or here or here), and there’s plenty to laud about the conversations in which they’re choosing to engage. (Full disclosure: TGMP reprinted an essay of mine from AIOTB days after I solicited Rion for this excellent piece.) Still, a significant part of community responsibility, even in the wake of our admiration or appreciation, is a willingness to have the tough conversations too. Rion’s experience sheds light on issues that are worthy of our consideration, and I hope that, in sharing them, the TGMP will feel challenged—and supported—to address them in a way that continues to move these many important conversations forward.

-Kirsten Clodfelter

An early draft of this piece.

An early draft of this piece, from the author’s journal

Little Known Bible Verses (Preceded by a Rather Long Note) or Why You Won’t Find This Piece on The Good Men Project

By

Rion Amilcar Scott

Author’s Note: I recently submitted this satirical piece to The Good Men Project, and it was accepted under the condition that I make a few revisions. I was asked, among other things, to cut the last section of the piece that pokes fun at Chick-fil-A.

A piece like this is similar to a game of Jenga, remove too many pieces or put them in the wrong place in the wrong way, and the whole thing topples over. I agreed to a few of his suggestions, but other parts in question were integral to the broader perspective and point-of-view of the piece. I didn’t care too much about getting “killed in the comments section,” since anyone who would take a “no homo” joke seriously in this context just isn’t paying close enough attention anyway. Bite my tongue for no one.

But it turns out that what it came down to for the editor was that we cut the Chik-fil-A reference because, as he put it, “They’re advertisers, so I’m concerned about that one.” 

Um, pause.

The Good Men Project identifies itself as an ongoing conversation about the contours and boundaries of masculinity. A worthy discussion. Playing out the scripts of bad or cartoonish manhood is at the heart of many of the problems our society seems to have a hard time shaking. Homophobia, much like racism, kills.

Participating in such a conversation is the very reason I decided to submit to The Good Men Project in the first place. My piece contains gags about transubstantiation, Halloween, the gluten-free craze, and a bunch of other subjects both serious and trivial, but the heart of the work deals with the very subjects The Good Men Project purports to tackle. Without those sections, it’s just a bunch of jokes about Facebook and football. Of course the Good Men Project needs to keep the heat and the lights on—that explains taking money from Chick-fil-A—but to do so at the expense of their very mission is the highest form of self-defeat.

These conversations make and shape us, and they can also bend and deform us. I’m not ashamed of much, but one of the things that often nags at me is how uncharitable my younger self could be toward classmates I perceived as queer. Many years later, after I had become a man and shed much of my childish homophobia, I heard my father speaking about acceptance and non-judgment toward gays and lesbians, and I wondered if things would have been different if we’d had that conversation much earlier. 

What does it mean when the perspectives and views of this social conversation—a conversation that should benefit everyone—are going unsaid to benefit only certain participants and leaving most others in the dark? More importantly, what does it mean when some of those engaged in the conversation are rape apologists or even anonymous rapists trying to justify their transgressions? What does it mean when a group of men’s rights activists show up to loudly proclaim that [white] men are an oppressed class? What it means is that we’ve ended up with one shitty, useless conversation.

It didn’t make sense to censor myself and mutilate my piece to make Chick-fil-A happy. I mean, all Chick-fil-A has ever given me is stomachaches and diarrhea. And I’m not pining to get accolades from the Chick-fil-A corporate offices. No writer has ever jumped up and said, “They love my work down at Chick-fil-A!” Most of all, even if my work appeared on a website called The Good Men Project, there’s no way I could reasonably call myself a Good Man while silencing my voice so some people somewhere could sell a few more homophobic chicken sandwiches. 

As Method Man would say, “If you can’t join ‘em, beat ‘em”:

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LITTLE KNOWN BIBLE VERSES

If thou giveth even a single Skittle to a six year old dressed as Spongebob on the 31st of October, then thou hath sinned against the Lord and worshipped mine enemy.

***

Thou shalt surrender ten percent of thy salary to a man in alligator-skin boots so that man may purchase a Rolls Royce, for that is the automobile of the Lord.

***

Thou shalt shout out the Lord thy God three to four times an hour in thy Facebook status.

***

Thee can pray all thou wants for a Superbowl victory, but if thou playest for the Buffalo Bills then thou shalt always lose for I am a petty and vengeful God and a long time ago a cornerback from the Bills cut in front of Me at Subway and then when the sandwich artist finally got to Me they were out of the kind of bread I like. So I turned to this fool, pointed my finger and was like, Thou shalt regret that.

***

On the Monday after the celebration of the resurrection of thy Lord and Savior, thou shalt return to thy sad and soul crushing labor. For on a day in November you will set aside a day for a gigantic meal with people thou don’t really like and that is worthy of a national holiday, but not the return of a man from the dead. Goeth and figureth.

***

And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and broke it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat—” And before Jesus could finish speaking, the disciple Thomas cut him off and said, “Um, Jesus, you know if this bread is gluten free?”

***

All religions are just different paths to the same destination. Except Scientology. That shit’s crazy. So saith the Lord.

***

And forthwith Judas came to Jesus, and said, “Hail, master”; and kissed him. And there did follow a long awkward silence in which both Judas and Jesus looked first out into the sky and then down at their feet. And Judas did chuckle a bit and Jesus did blush. And Judas swept his hair with his hand and said, “Uh, no homo.”

***

On Easter Sunday and on Christmas day as well, if thou doth believeth, then thou shalt log onto thy social network accounts and proclaim thy superiority over those who do not believe. If thou doth not believe then thou shalt log on and spread the good word about thy fealty to reason and how it makes thou intellectually superior to the believer. And it shall all be very insufferable. And for everyone else—those who don’t really care that much—Facebook and Twitter shall be more unpleasant than usual. Best to just log off and go enjoy thy day.

***

After the Sermon, the disciple Tom raised his hand. “Jesus,” he said. “If your message boils down to ‘Just don’t be a dick,’ then why do so many act like dicks in your name?” Jesus nodded, then Jesus shrugged and then Jesus wept.

***

The animals on Noah’s Ark numbered in the millions—some more flavorsome than even goats and chickens and cows, but Noah’s family dined on the really, really delicious ones and after the flood cleared there were no truly tasty animals left.

***

“Dude, are we drinking your blood?”

***

And Jesus did see Mary Magdalene walking down a street in Galillee and she did look fine as frog’s hair. And He called out: “Turn the other cheek this way, baby!”

***

There came a time when the prophet Mike Huckabee appeareth on Fox News and said: “People, I have spoken to the Lord and he still hates the whole gay thing—I don’t know, something about butt sex. And here’s the bad news: He said you’re either with Him or against Him on this one. But the good news is, there’s a special chicken sandwich you can eat to ward off the gay.”

And the righteous did descend upon Chick-fil-a. After eating the greasy chicken patties upon dry bread, the righteous descended upon the bathroom and there followed much wailing and gnashing of teeth.

And the righteous cried out:

“God, what is this nasty shit?”

“This shit taste like some doodooronemy.”

“Lord, why has thou forsaken thee. Couldn’t you order us to eat at Friday’s or something?”

“Good God, is this nasty; I think I’d rather put a penis in my mouth.”

And the Lord did take pity upon His children, showering them in Barilla pasta. The righteous rejoiced and clapped and sang and waved their arms as their blood sugar spiked from the carbohydrate intake.

 

A version of this piece originally appeared on Rion Amilcar Scott’s blog, Datsun Flambe.

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Rion Amilcar Scott has contributed to PANK, Fiction International, The Rumpus, and Confrontation, among others. Raised in Silver Spring, Maryland, he earned an MFA at George Mason University and presently teaches English at Bowie State University. He can also be found at forgottentunneltv.tumblr.com.