Monday, December 12, 2011

The Necessity of Invented Narratives

Last week Newt Gingrich referred to the Palestinians as “an invented people” in an effort to unconditionally support Israel in everything they do, including appropriating land as they see fit. As Dennis G. notes at Balloon Juice, this is not just Newt coming up with another one of his historical howlers. It is part of the White Male narrative that the right wing uses to justify their place in civilization.

It is all a dog whistle. The Professor says similar outrageous things about non-white peoples all the time. He belittles their legitimacy and their ability—or even their right—to be part of the History of Civilization. When Newt discusses non-White people and cultures he likes to place their impact on History in the context of Colonialism and White Male Civilization. A major plank in Newt’s critique of Barack Obama is his non-Whiteness. Newt’s claim about the “invented” Palestinian people is a way to reinforce that dog whistle. The Professor likes to suggest that Barack Obama is also “invented” by the same multi-cultural forces that hold White Male Civilization under siege. This is a major meme of Wingnutopia and very close to the core of their hatred of the President. And every Republican running for the White House (and most other offices as well) is compelled to embrace some aspect of the “invented”-Obama-as-a-sign-that-White-Civilization-is-under-siege meme. Their trouble is that Newt is just better at this racist dog whistle shit than all of them put together.

It’s certainly nothing new. We’ve been hearing about it for generations: the Civil War was not about slavery, non-white immigrants were here just to have babies, poor people are lazy, women do not need to vote, gays and lesbians are that way by choice, and Christians — especially evangelicals — are the most persecuted majority in the history of civilization.

We’re going to be hearing new versions of the old narratives from now through the election and beyond. The fact is that none of them are true is of little consequence; we are now such mass consumers of raw information that the screening and review and contextual filters have long been abandoned. It’s on Facebook or Twitter, so it must be true.

And yes, insert the false equivalency meme here: “both sides do it.” (There, feel better?) But the White Male Supremacy defenders are much better at it and will do a far better job of saturating the air and intertubes with the White Bread Under Assault message for the next year and beyond, regardless of the outcome. That’s because when you invent something, you have to be able to make it work in all conditions, and they have had years of practice. The only thing the other team has is the truth, and it’s really hard to win when you’re always playing defense, even against an offense of lies.