Saturday, November 27, 2010

Seven Really Good New(ish) Music Videos (Proving That I Am Not An Oldhead)

I had one of those unbearable, Oldhead conversations a few days ago with the comic genius Anthony DeVito about how, you know, everything used to be better. Before. In this case however, I wasn't wrong because we were talking about music videos, which kind of suck now. We grew up in the Golden Age of Music Video, when a new release would get talked about at school the next day. And rightly so. Visual cliché's aside, they were really exciting. Even artists whose music I wasn't into became compelling for a few minutes at a time based on the originality of their videos (Madonna was the Mayor of that Town). But the 90s pretty much ruined music video. The music changed and didn't really lend itself to images. Unsurprisingly, Jeremy aside, watching Eddie Vedder contort his mouth around an invisible corn-dog as he sang didn't inspire anyone to make the Grunge-thriller, which was probably just as well. Trip-hop, breakbeat, and electronica didn't either. And when Hip Hop turned "Gangster" it rejected all the joy, fun and politics that might have led to great videos. Hype Williams made a handful of good ones and a whole lot of crap ones using the same few tricks: blown out whites, fish eye lenses, shiny, shiny everything...

Anyway, I asked the question: Now that really high quality digital video is within reach for most artists why aren't videos getting better, not worse? If you listed the best music videos ever made you could easily do the top fifty before you got to 1990. Top hundred before '95. As an experiment I decided to--off the top of my head-- come up with seven memorable current (more or less) music videos to stem the tide of nostalgia that was pulling me under. Lists are the purview of the beautiful Beth Mann (see her "10 Reasons Why Everything Was Better 'Back in the Day'", for a timely example) but perhaps she will let me have this one since the results were kind of interesting when I put them all together. This is what I came up with:

"Leave all your love and your longing behind/
You can't carry it with you if you want to survive"

I'm probably going to start hating Florence and the Machine's great, strange Dog Days Are Over any day now given its ubiquity in various you-go-girl marketing campaigns (Gossip Girl? Check. Gray's Anatomy? Check. Tampax, you're up!). But even Julia Roberts doing her White-Lady-Shops-The-World-For-Enlightenment schtick in commercials for Eat Pray Love's DVD release to this song can't undo the greatness of its video. This is actually the second clip created for the song (following a DIY effort you can still find on YouTube that Florence created using Christmas lights and starring her dad poking around in a forest.) This one was directed by Georgie Greville and Geremy Jasper and features a pleasingly disparate mash-up of cultural styles-- 60s girl-group back up singers painted a science fiction-y blue, "tribal" dancers, a native-painted gospel choir... this is the sort of thing that is never less than offensive done badly. But here it completely works for me by underscoring the weird structure of the song itself, which veers from folky harp-plinking to blue-eyed soul to power-pop and back again. Florence is the real thing, I think. If she stays weird she could be the new Annie Lennox.

"It's casual/ Not heartbreaking"

Brooklyn's Here We Go Magic are a fuzzy, lo-fi "psychedelic electro-folk" band formed by Luke Temple and Casual is a track on their sophomore album, Pigeons. Building on the simple lyric, "It's casual/ Not heartbreaking" the video, directed by directing team Peking (aka Nat Livingston Johnson and Gregory Mitnick), is set in an obscure hospital/clinic. Various bloody vignettes illustrate the ordinariness of death, dying and, in a surreal turn, birth. I won't blow the big reveal at the climax but for me the most heartrending image is Temple, writhing in pain on a hospital bed when his face is suddenly suffused by white light... which the camera reveals is only streaming from a newly opened window. Oof. Oh, and NSFW.

"It's only just a crush, it'll go away/It's just like all the others it'll go away/Or maybe this is danger and you just don't know"

The songs on LA-based duo She Wants Revenge's self-titled debut sound like lost 80s New Wave classics, in a good way. Tear You Apart is emblematic of their new-new wave sound with a dark, Bauhus-y synth crackling in the background and an urgent, angsty Ian Curtis-like vocal up front. The actor Joaquin Phoenix directed the video, which owes as much to paranoid 50s sci-fi as 80s teen romances--it's like "Pretty in(vasion) of the Body Snatchers". A couple of years old now, pre-Phoenix's scripted career meltdown, this video pushes the narrative as far as possible, providing subtitles for the short "film" he created to accompany the song.

M.I.A, Born Free from ROMAIN-GAVRAS on Vimeo.

" Yeah I don't want to live for tomorrow/ I push my life today"

I loves me some M.I.A. Born Free is built around a 33 year old sample (ouch) from Ghost Rider by Suicide and the song is propelled forward by its churning panicky energy. The video was directed by Romain-Gavras (son of filmmaker Costa-Gavras) and it caused a huge controversy for overtly referencing indigenous rights struggles from around the world including Palestine (ruh-roh) and Northern Ireland. Crystallizing an M.I.A. backlash in the press that culminated in a New York Times hatchet-job, the clip depicts US government troops terrorizing an unnamed city, rounding up a group of redheaded young men and well--you should watch it for yourself. But be warned if you haven't seen it: it is upsetting. Brilliant but shocking. Also kinda NSFW.

"I’m livin’ in the 21st century/Doin’ something mean to it/
Do it better than anybody you ever seen do it"

What more can you say about Kanye West at this point? He may not be the genius he seems to think he is-- but he still pretty damn good. Kind of a whiner with a nasal voice to match, no one would accuse him of being a great vocalist. And Kanye's smartest lyrics are often drowned out by the overwrought ones (see: Diamonds from Sierra Leone). But his strength has always been his vision, which can sell an oddly personal idea with an unlikely hook, like this one. Power is also built around a sample (hmm) from King Crimson's 1969 21st Century Schizoid Man... which might be the most self-aware reference Kanye has made so far. The video, which Kanye tweeted was like a "moving painting," was directed by the artist Marco Brambilla and features model Irina Shayk. It is peopled with characters from the Major and Minor Arcana of the Etteilla Occult Tarot deck, all interacting in a shiny, slow-motion, prog-rock album cover dystopia.

I actually like the way Kanye (or his tour director) translated the images when he performed this song on SNL as much (if not more) but I decided to keep consistent and list the video itself.

"I'm the spark, make the world explode/
I'm a man-eating machine, I'll make the world explode"

Grace Jones doesn't get a fair shake. Sure, her early disco stuff is largely awful/forgettable. But Jones' New Wave turn produced some of the most memorable sounds and images of that genre. Which I guess is the problem: the images were so arresting that they gave people permission to dismiss the music. But her sound, equal parts French cabaret, Jamaican Dub and icy new wave synth was completely unique. And her covers of Iggy Pop's Nightclubbing, The Normal's Warm Leatherette and Joy Division's She's Lost Control exceed the originals, I think. Jones was ahead of her time--a video star before video, whose look was an integral supplement to her music, which is the regular order of things now whether you are Jack White or Rihanna. Corporate Cannibal was the lead single on 2008's Hurricane, Grace Jones' first new studio album in nineteen years. Unfortunately, the album wasn't released in North America and the single was pretty much ignored by the radio-- but the video, directed by Nick Hooker, was a huge hit online. And it is easy to see why. It's pretty amazing, simultaneously tweaking Jones' image and making it new for this moment. Bottom line: she is so iconic at this point that her entire image can be rendered in an inky digital blur and she is still unmistakable. How many other artists could make that claim?

"What's in the silver locket?/ What's in the silver frame?/
What's that fool around your neck?/ Albatross, albatross, albatross"

Mt. St. Helen's Vietnam Band are from Seattle. They have that crunchy, hippy spookiness I love in bands like Black Mountain and White Magic. I love this song, Albatross, Albatross-- and the video, set in the Pacific Northwest and directed by Matt Daniels, is simple but disturbing. I included it because even though it is a bit more homemade than the others on the list it is darkly suggestive without being pyrotechnic or imposing a clear narrative.

... So there you go. Now get offa my porch!

Friday, November 26, 2010

THE AIDS JAAGO PROJECT: In Observation of World AIDS DAy

THE AIDS JAAGO PROJECT (The AIDS Awake Project): In Observation of World AIDS Day

Tuesday, November 30, 7:00 pm, Wang Center Theater

Four of India’s finest directors aim to dismantle myths and misconceptions about HIV/AIDS, which if ignored will soon reach epidemic proportions in India, in the AIDS Jaago Project. Putting their individualistic stamp on these films and using top Indian movie stars they created four beautifully shot, richly textured stories about the human dimension of the disease in order to change minds and save lives.

Free admission.

The Directors and Films:

Migration by Mira Nair
Blood Brothers by Vishal Bhardwaj
Positive by Farhan Akhtar
The Beginning by Santosh Sivan

Watch Trailer:
For more information:

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

On the Importance of Being an Arab

On the Importance of Being an Arab

Friday, November 26th
Saturday, November 27th at Theatre Monty in Antwerp.

Friday, December 3rd at Les Halles de Schaerbeek in Brussels.

This performance is based on events in the life of director/performer Ahmed El Attar. In sequences based on his personal archives – love letters, school and university grades, programs of the performances he has attended, work documents and letters etc. – a character is drawn who shares his views on his own perceptions of himself and on how the outside world perceives him.

On the Importance of Being an Arab further develops the performance style that characterizes Attar's recent Temple Independent Company productions – a combination of theatre, music and visual arts. A single intense rhythmic soundtrack accompanies the performance from beginning to end. The music composed for this production by Hassan Khan, with its emphasis on the use of electronics, driving and insistent loops and riffs, and emotional synth workouts is based on contemporary Cairene Shaabi forms. Video clips, also by Khan, are projected behind the performer, making this a multimedia performance in what the company describes as “new and relevant Egyptian theatre that is sensitive to the contemporary context in both form and content”.

On the Importance of Being an Arab was created in 2009 and was presented in Sharjah (UAE), Düsseldorf (Germany), Ivry (France), Groneijen, Rotterdam, Utrecht, and Amsterdam (Holland) in the fall 2009, in Cairo in July 2010 and at the Piccolo theatre in Milano in September 2010.

Ahmed El Attar is an independent theatre director, translator and playwright who lives in Cairo and works in the Middle East and Europe. He is the founder and artistic director of the Temple Independent Theatre Company in Egypt and the founder and managing director of the Studio Emad Eddin Foundation. The studio is a unique space in Egypt and the Arab world, providing rehearsal space and training to performing artists in Cairo, and residencies to visiting trainers and artists. El Attar has a BA in Theatre from the American University in Cairo and an MA in Arts and Cultural Management from Paris III Sorbonne Nouvelle. He is currently a Chevening scholar on the Clore Leadership Programme (UK). El Attar has been chosen by the Arabic edition of Newsweek as one of 42 personalities who influence change in the Arab world. Recent productions include F**K Darwin, How I’ve Learned to Love Socialism (2007), Othello Who’s Afraid of William Shakespeare (2006) and Mother I want to be a Millionaire (2004). His pieces, which address socially relevant themes, have been performed to public and critical acclaim throughout the Arab world and the West.

The performance is 40 minutes long and is subtitled in English.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Suspicious Packages: Liberals, Libertarians and the TSA -or- "Don't Touch My Junk"

Friday Charles Krauthammer wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post titled "Don't Touch My Junk."

Um, okay.

Krauthammer was responding to the recent uproar over the new, aggressive Transportation Security Administration procedures, which include a full-body scan that renders an image of the traveler's naked body or, alternately, a thorough full-body pat down. Very thorough. As in a stranger's hands on your genitals-and-not-in-a-good-way thorough. Perhaps predictably people have begun to freak out over this. Including John Tyner, a San Diego man who refused the scan or the pat down announcing that he would call the police if they "touched [his] junk." All of which he captured on his iphone and posted to You Tube. Krauthammer writes,

...everyone knows that the entire apparatus of the security line is a national homage to political correctness. Nowhere do more people meekly acquiesce to more useless inconvenience and needless indignity for less purpose. Wizened seniors strain to untie their shoes; beltless salesmen struggle comically to hold up their pants; 3-year-olds scream while being searched insanely for explosives - when everyone, everyone, knows that none of these people is a threat to anyone... But we must not bring that up. We pretend that we go through this nonsense as a small price paid to ensure the safety of air travel. Rubbish. This has nothing to do with safety - 95 percent of these inspections, searches, shoe removals and pat-downs are ridiculously unnecessary. The only reason we continue to do this is that people are too cowed to even question the absurd taboo against profiling - when the profile of the airline attacker is narrow, concrete, uniquely definable and universally known. So instead of seeking out terrorists, we seek out tubes of gel in stroller pouches.

This is a dozen kinds of racist and wrong, but entirely within Krauthammer's character and the spirit of his appalling discourse. So, in a sad way, unsurprising. Nevertheless, The American Prospect's Adam Serwer responded to Krauthammer in his own Washington Post op ed titled "Touch His Junk" writing,

Racial profiling is no more statistically accurate than those random searches conservatives always complain about. Thousands of Muslims travel on airplanes every day, and an infinitesimal number actually turn out to be dangerous. But the argument here is pretty clear -- the problem isn't that the violation of privacy isn't worth an unknown gain in security. It's that the TSA should be frisking "Nigerian nutjobs" instead of grandma. Conservatives like Krauthammer aren't angry that the TSA is infringing on individual liberty, just that it's infringing on their individual liberty.

Of course Serwer is right, but something about his response bothered me and I couldn't quite articulate it until I read Avon Snarksdale's supplement to his argument, titled "This Type of Ish Happens Every Day", at Post Bourgie (and subsequently quoted at length by Serwer at The American Prospect). Snarksdale writes,

It should be pointed out that for plenty of people of color in the nation’s inner cities, these kind of uncomfortable, vaguely legal searches — with the stated intent of finding people carrying guns and drugs — are essentially de rigueur... In one four-block section of Brownsville, Brooklyn, the NYPD made 52,000 stops over a four-year period, which averaged out to about one stop for every resident in the area each year. And it’s no more efficient than the profiling Adam decries: for all that scrutiny and all those stops over four years, the police in Brownsville recovered just 25 guns, and less than 1 percent of all those people who were stopped — and questioned and patted down and humiliated as they went about their lives — were ever arrested. (All of the personal info taken during the stops, however, was entered into a citywide database.)

I cosign the spirit of Snarksdale's critique and I completely agree with his analysis of street stops. But his essay (and Serwer’s before it) stops well short of addressing a) the unprecedented legal shift away from civil rights initiated by the Bush Administration and perpetuated under Obama and b) that Arabs and Muslims–regardless of their race–are the disproportionate target of this new legislation. In other words, it is now perfectly legal in the United States for me to be removed from my apartment for writing this blog post and imprisoned indefinitely with no legal right to counsel. And further, for me to be tortured physically, psychologically and sexually at the discretion of my captors, who would suffer no consequences for those acts even if they came to light. That is NOT an “every day” scenario. That is a new, radical abrogation of civil rights and Arabs and Muslims are its unambiguous focus.

Charles Krauthammer is arguing against the TSA’s invasive security theatre in favor of profiling Arabs and Muslims, an increasingly mainstream position. That the main refutation of this argument at Post Bourgie and at The American Prospect is “but it doesn’t work” does not fill me with confidence. So… what if it worked? Would it be okay then? Every couple of years or so when some conservative nutbag advocates fencing off ghettos or forcing women who receive welfare benefits to submit to state-enforced birth control we don’t click our tongues and say “but it wouldn’t work.” We say, “Fuck you for suggesting that we legally dismantle civil rights for your racist political agenda.” So would it kill these guys to take such an unambiguous, ethical stand against targeting Arabs and Muslims? The fact that in the space of two short posts we got from Charles Krauthammer calling for the profiling of Arabs and Muslims in a mainstream newspaper to a complete reframing of his arguments in terms of a Black-White racial dynamic profoundly disturbs me. How is it that Serwer and Snarksdale--putative Liberals-- managed to do what Krauthammer couldn't and made Arabs and Muslims disappear completely?

Snarksdale is quite right that the law is selectively applied to Black people–and that this is exponentially worse for poor Black people. And he is completely right that institutional racism goes down to the bone in US society. And a critique of the responses of old white guys like the pilot who was so shaken by his groping pat down that he refused to fly afterward using a racial lens is valuable and completely valid… But the selective application of civil rights (as in “random” police stops in Brownsville) is *not* the same as legally removing them entirely.

Which is a thing that has happened. Bush did that and Obama has done nothing to undo it.

So let’s be clear. Enduring a humiliating pat down is not the same thing as getting sodomized by a fluorescent light tube (which is another thing that has happened to Arabs and Muslims imprisoned in the “war on terror”). Do violations like that also happen to Black men in police custody? We know that they do. But we also know that when they happen they are completely illegal. Not so for Arabs and Muslims at Bagram, Gitmo, or any of the numerous Black Sites around the globe. When US soldiers screamed at the Arabs and Muslims who were collected almost entirely at random for imprisonment and torture at Guantanamo Bay “You are property of the US Military!” as they sodomized them, it was completely legal. That is a paradigm shift. Period.

Now is it a slippery slope from one to the other? You bet. But that isn’t really what Snarksdale is arguing (If he were believe me, I’d be thrilled) Instead he is saying it “happens every day” to Black folks and so, in some sense, it is not a big deal that it is happening to folks like me. This is a grotesque sentiment that I have unfortunately heard over and over from Black Liberals. (Who have also made the same point about Latinos in the ongoing immigration debate, to similar effect.) But here’s the thing guys: Our experiences are different, mine are not a weak metaphor for yours.

Don't get me wrong, I love Post Bourgie. That I felt free to post a frank response to Snarksdale's essay is a testament to my respect for the intelligence of that community. So if I sound angry it’s only because I AM angry. Posts like Snarksdale's that argue But This Has Always Happened To Black People Anyway are fundamentally dishonest if they do not acknowledge the material circumstances of life for Arabs and Muslims under the USA Patriot Act. There is a fantastic, intersectional analysis of US racism and orientalism/Islamophobia waiting to be written. But that analysis cannot be made if we begin from assumptions like those upon which his essay is based.

Between you, me and the CIA operatives monitoring my internet activity, a better analogy than institutional racism to the USA Patriot Act and its ultimate effects would be Germany’s Enabling Act of 1933, which legally expanded the reach and powers of the government to selectively apply constitutional rights and protections… And we all (I hope) know how that ended up. Still, if Liberal bloggers wrote about Arabs and Muslims by relating our situation to what Black folks endure under institutionalized racism I think that would be great. But if they only want to use us to make a point about their experiences– delegitimizing ours in the process–then I wish they'd do us a favor and please don’t.

Dealing with the Krauthammers of the world, who are not in short supply, is exhausting enough. But, as an Arab, the lack of will to speak out for me among the US Left is at least as frightening as the open hatred among the Right. As far as flying is concerned I have already made the decision to go for the pat down over the scan. They want to feel for a suspicious package? Okay then. We'll see who blinks first.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

49B Studios Presents HOME-LAND: An Exhibition of Middle Eastern Artists

Dear Friends,

Please join me at 49B Studios for the exhibition HOME-LAND, during Arts In Bushwick's one-day event: BETA Spaces, co-presented with ArteEast.

HOME-LAND opens November 14th 2010 from 12pm to 7pm with Installations, Photography, paintings, performances and screenings. My installation, Torture Commissioned By The Emperor For The Good Of The People (2010) (*see below) is part of this exhibition of Middle Eastern artists, curated by Makram Hamdan. All the works in this show were created in response to representations of the idea "homeland."

Participating Artists:
Barrak Alzaid
Omar Amiralay
Faysal Bibi
Rafael Fuchs
Amnon Gutman
Makram Hamdan
Zied Hamdan
Maria Kassab
Leeor Kaufman
Rami Kodeih,
Maryam Najd
Rima Najd
Azadeh Saljooghi
Joseph Shahadi

Take the L train to Morgan Ave.
Exit at rear of train at Harrison Pl/ Bogart St.
Turn right out of station, walk one block to # 49 just past Brooklyn Naturals Deli.


* The Torture Commissioned By The Emperor
For The Good Of The People
Installation detail, Mixed media: Lamb hearts, testes,
straight pins, sewing and upholstery needles

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Sunday Music: Ode To Billy Joe (R.I.P. Tyler Clementi)

I'm still thinking about Tyler Clementi.

About two months ago now, overwhelmed by the experience of having his privacy invaded by his roommate, who'd live streamed footage of him having sex with another boy, Clementi-- by all accounts a sensitive, thoughtful kid and talented musician-- threw himself off of the George Washington Bridge. The circumstances around Clementi's tragic death have sparked a much-needed conversation about homophobic bullying, especially since it comes on the heels of the recent suicides of so many other gay teens. I'm glad those conversations are happening-- but I want to focus on another, broader aspect of this tragedy.

The thing that struck me, and haunts me still about Clementi's death is the casual cruelty of his roommate Dhaurun Ravi. On September 19th Ravi tweeted “Roommate asked for the room till midnight. I went into molly’s room and turned on my webcam. I saw him making out with a dude. Yay.” Three days later Clementi, unable to process this violation, took his own life.

And I keep asking myself: What made Ravi think it was okay to do something like this?

What essential messages about boundaries did he not receive? How can he have reached young manhood with so little basic, human compassion?

The default explanation for his actions is homophobia, and that may be true... But I don't think it's only that. Why should we assume that Ravi wouldn't have played the same cruel prank on a straight roommate? (Although it's clear that if he had it wouldn't have had the same tragic result.) For me, the fact that Ravi felt empowered to blindly abuse Clementi with no thought of the consequences is a chilling statement about a culture that celebrates cruelty as entertainment. This question brings me squarely into Old Fart territory, but I don't care: In a cultural landscape where people attack one another physically and emotionally for sport, there are no consequences for stupid, dangerous behavior and routine cruelty is openly rewarded how can we expect kids like Dhaurun Ravi to get the message that what he did to Tyler Clementi isn't okay? The most frightening thing to me is the thought that Dhaurun Ravi isn't a monster, but just a kid acting on the premises he has learned up until now.

The tragedy is that Tyler Clementi had to die for him to understand that other people bleed when you cut them.

The wonderful Jo Nubian has addressed another element of this issue--the bullying that is often incited by kids who don't perform "normative" gender roles-- in a terrific post on Race-Talk called, Tolerance, Acceptance and Princesses. Jo writes, as the mom to a little girl who sleeps in her tiara, about Dyson Kiloadavis, the "Princess Boy" who likes dressing in pretty girl's clothes. The video that accompanies her essay is perhaps the anti-Jerry Springer: a healthy, well adjusted family thoughtfully discussing their relationship to a member who is acting differently from them in terms of gender expression. I dare you not to choke up when Dyson's older brother says, of his desire to dress as a princess for Halloween, "Just let him be happy." Amen.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Why You Should Care About Christine O'Donnell's One-Night-Stand (And Why Caring Does NOT Make You A Misogynist)

Christine O'Donnell, contemplating the state of her Ladybug

Last Thursday Gawker posted a story titled "I Had a One-Night-Stand With Christine O'Donnell" written by an anonymous Philadelphia man who recounted a 3 year-old fumbling encounter with recent Tea Party candidate for Delaware Senate--and staunch abstinence advocate--Christine O'Donnell. According to "Anonymous" (who has since been identified as Dustin Dominiak) O'Donnell showed up at his door three Halloweens ago with a friend in tow asking to borrow his bathroom to change into her costume. Dominiak barely knew O'Donnell (he was renting an apartment from her aunt) but went along as she, now dressed as a ladybug, persuaded him to accompany her to a bar on Philadelphia's South Street.

Both drank heavily and later that evening/early that morning found themselves naked in his bed, fooling around. According to Dominiak, O'Donnell seemed sexually unskilled, announced her intention to remain a virgin and sported an all-natural pubic bush, all turn-offs for him. Dominiak, who had to get up early for work cut his losses, rolled over and went to sleep. Despite the awkwardness of their encounter O'Donnell contacted Dominiak and suggested that they get together again. He writes, "I didn't see any reason to try and see her again. But two or three days later, she emailed me to ask me if I wanted to hang out again. I made an excuse. But she didn't take a hint and emailed or called a few more times over the next couple of weeks before I was forced to make it clear to her that I wasn't interested."

So, to review:

Two adults have a consensual sexual encounter that leaves one of them unsatisfied and with no desire to see the other again. Happens every day. If you adjusted for the details what sexually active adult with a history of more than one partner hasn't been on one side of this equation or the other? Or, if we are really being honest... both? Speaking of details, most people are focusing on O'Donnell's alleged all-natural pubic hair situation, but for my dollars the image of Dominiak rousting her in the morning so he can get to work, is the gold here. And not only because it involves a still-drunk, panty-free Christine O'Donnell but because the embarrassing banality of this scenario makes it so ordinary. And if this were a story about any two people trying to connect and failing that would be the end of it.

... But the dump-ee in question here is Christine O'Donnell, a politician whose positions (sorry) are largely derived from an extreme interpretation of Christian doctrine that precludes pre-marital sex, a proscription she famously extended to include even masturbation. Under most circumstances I am completely disinterested in the sex lives of famous people (or, anybody really who I am not having sex with) but Christine O'Donnell long ago blurred the lines between her public and private life by continuously using herself as an example in her activism. O'Donnell, a Catholic convert to evangelical Christianity, has said that looking at pornography is tantamount to adultery, that homosexuality is an identity disorder and has argued for the adoption of a "higher standard than abstinence" as an expression of personal righteousness. As a politician O'Donnell's take on sex and sexuality informs her public stance on multiple issues: she is pro-abstinence education, virulently anti-gay, and opposes abortion even in cases of rape or incest. So when a person with such a rigid public stance on sexuality is revealed betraying her stated values in private, it is news. There have been many recent revelations of such hypocrisy from conservative politicians in recent years and this is merely the latest example, right?

Apparently not. The negative response to the Gawker article has been overwhelming, even among people who are deeply opposed to O'Donnell's political agenda. The National Organization of Women (NOW) rushed to defend O'Donnell Thursday when spokesman Terry O’Neill issued a statement describing the Gawker article as a "sexist, misogynist attack." O'Neill clarified, "NOW/PAC has proudly endorsed women's rights champion Chris Coons, O'Donnell's opponent in the Delaware Senate race, and finds O'Donnell's political positions dangerous for women. That does not mean it's acceptable to use slut-shaming against her, or any woman." In the New York Times, David Carr characterized the Gawker article as a "drive-by" that feeds O'Donnell into "the digital wood chipper" in an essay pointedly titled "By Any Means Necessary." The reaction online has been even more knee-jerk as Slate's Jack Shafer describes Gawker's O'Donnell post as a "tawdry... sleazy...nonstory" and Jessica Coen at Gawker's sister-site Jezebel dismisses the entire thing to an anti-female witch hunt. She writes,

If the politician in question were a man, this wouldn't be a story — an anonymous woman probably wouldn't even think to contact a gossip site with her story about how she once played spin-the-bottle with Mr. Candidate. Because who hasn't made out with someone? (With apologies to you, over there, looking sheepish in the corner.) Anyhow, big whoop. Wait — let me revise that a bit: perhaps a lady from Mr. Candidate's innocent past would step forward with such a small faux-scandalous tale, and we'd briefly pay attention to it — but only if Mr. Candidate were viewed as patently ridiculous as is O'Donnell. Really, the dude has got to be captivatingly idiotic in order for this kind of story to be of even the most remote interest. And that brings us back to the Would Never Happen column, because even the most absurd male candidates aren't considered half as loony as their female equivalents are.

Um, what? So, a scandal like this would never happen to a man... Except that it would, but only if he were as nuts as O'Donnell, and that wouldn't happen because men are never considered as nuts as women. And then everyone would forget about it right away anyway so it would be like it never happened. Besides, a woman would never publicly reveal embarrassing details of a sexual encounter with a famous man... because that is a thing that never, ever happens, right? Yeah, I am going to have to call bullshit on the pearl-clutch.

I am also going to save this paragraph forever so that when people ask me what I mean by "straw man argument" I can have one at my fingertips. But aside from being based on--literally--nothing, Cohen's argument relies on a purposeful revision of very recent political history: sadly, there is no shortage of male conservatives who are every inch as batshit crazy as O'Donnell. Am I expected to believe that if, say, Glenn Beck were caught in a similar situation it wouldn't become a giant story? (I know Beck isn't technically a politician, but with the rise of Tea Party politics the line between "pundit" and "politician" has been completely blurred, a la Sarah Palin.) At any rate, we don't need to speculate. There are many, many examples of male public figures--conservative and otherwise-- whose private lives did not match their stated public values and were embarrassed by the revelation of their various indiscretions. Like, oh... Larry Craig, Ted Haggard, Jimmy Swaggert, Mark Sandford, John Edwards, Bill Clinton, Jim Bakker, Randal David Ankeny, Bob Barr, Parker Bena, Ken Calvert, Mark Foley, Phillip Giordano, Matthew Glavin, Bob Packwood, Ed Schrock, Jim West, Michael Duvall, Mark Souder, Glenn Richardson, Daniel Stout, Roy Ashburn, Jim McGreevey, Gary Condit, David Vitter, George Rekers, Eliot Spitzer, John Ensign, Paul Stanley, Bob Bauman, David Dreier, Jim Kolbe, Jim McCrery, Coy C. Privette, Bob Livingston, Dan Burton, Henry Hyde, Don Sherwood, Tim Mahoney, Vito Fosella, John Ensign, Richard Curtis... By any realistic standard then Christine O'Donnell is not being singled out and treated differently because she is a woman. Rather, she is being treated in exactly the same way as any man in her position would, and the same as many already have, which is pretty much the functional opposite of sexism.

And the charges of misogyny (!) leveled at Dominiak for blowing the whistle on O'Donnell by talking about their night together are completely ludicrous. Exactly how is he expressing any hatred for women? By being honest about not being sexually attracted Christine O'Donnell because of her pubic hair? You may find that a shallow reason to become turned off to someone sexually... but that isn't really yours to judge, now is it? A broad coalition of commenters at Jezebel don't get a vote in who Dustin Dominiak does or doesn't have sex with and why. Here's the thing: Adults get to have sex with whoever they want, as long as their partners are willing and of age, even if their choice of partners and rationale for being sexual with them is very different from yours. So if there's slut-shaming going on here it is being aimed at Dominiak, whose sexual behavior is being judged by other people's standards and found wanting. In reality, his behavior toward O'Donnell was pretty honest and straightforward. He hardly cast himself as a sexual James Bond in their story. They both come off like awkward , sexually unsophisticated young people... except that Dominiak was 25 and O'Donnell was almost 40 at the time of their encounter. What emerges from this story is the image of a woman sexually immature for her years, whose repressed attitudes led her to make reckless personal choices : a similar narrative to a dozen other conservatives who have publicly railed against sex in its various forms only to collapse under the weight of taboo temptations in private.

The most bothersome element of this entire affair is the patronizing assumption that Christine O'Donnell somehow requires protecting. She is a grown woman who entered into a consensual sexual encounter that ended badly. It's only newsworthy because of the extremity of her anti-sex positions. And downplaying the explicit danger posed by those positions in favor of a vision of Christine O'Donnell as some sort of victim is utter bullshit. Her famous pronouncement decrying masturbation is a punchline in 2010... but when it was made in the early 90s it was a direct refutation of Joycelyn Elders' assertion that masturbation might be encouraged as part of safer sex education, a position that cost her the job of Surgeon General of the United States. In those deadly, pre-drug cocktail days safer sex education was a life or death proposition for an entire generation and Christine O'Donnell actively worked against it, telling young people , "Condoms will not protect you from AIDS." So lets not get it twisted, Christine O'Donnell's extreme anti-sex positions are NOT a joke. Or worse, the harmless, kooky ramblings of a misguided girl who needs "our" protection. They are the hateful pronouncements of a death-merchant, whose Christo-Nationalist world-view makes her very fucking dangerous indeed.

... And let's be real, would it even be a question if O'Donnell weren't a middle-class white lady, whose apparent distress activated the white-lady-as-perpetual-victim bat-signal?

Fuck her (or don't).

And if you think it is your job to protect her from the legitimate revelation of her hypocrisy, then fuck you too.