Groovy Hate F*ck: Playboy, Rightbloggers, and the Death of South Park Conservatism
Last week Playboy did a crude take on conservative women whom the author, Guy Cimbalo, said he would like to "hate-fuck." Attacks on the piece, which was quickly pulled (though excerpts quoted in the commentary, as well as captured screenshots, testify to its ugliness), were numerous.
The few liberal sites that took notice were generally critical, but most of the outrage understandably came from rightbloggers, whose chivalry toward their colleagues was exercised. Some rightly put the blame squarely on the author and Playboy. But with their customary taste for overkill, many declared that Playboy -- which we thought appealed to a non-partisan audience of teenage masturbators -- represented liberalism in general, and that the article proved liberals hated women.
Yid With Lid called it "The Left At Its Most Mean Spirited." "Lefty Misogyny," said Don Surber. Stop the ACLU raged over "this left wing hatred," then reproduced a vintage rightblogger graphic that suggested Republican women are attractive while Democratic women make funny faces -- not ironically, so far as we can tell, but just as part of its anger spasms. Media Lizzy and Friends wrote, "Little did I know that Obama's hope-n-changey fans would resort to rape fantasies."
Ed Driscoll went further, and offered evidence that Playboy is the mothership of the liberal empire: a bumper sticker he saw once, and Larry Flynt. He also found some coverage of the piece insufficiently critical -- that is, a Salon piece included criticisms of Michelle Malkin with its harsh denunciation of the Playboy piece, and one in Politico only listed the targets without showing the ugly context (and was later amended with apologies). "Much like the 2008 Democratic Primary, and the election season that followed (see photo at top of post)," said Driscoll, "it's helped to shed a glimmer of light on a remarkably primitive side to what's commonly called 'liberalism' or 'progressivism' these days."
Not all the criticism-of-criticism was so misguided. Another critic of the piece, Bonnie Erbe at U.S. News, added strangely that "at least one woman on the list is so venom-spewing, she unfortunately invites venom to be shot back at her: Michelle Malkin" -- which seemed to imply that Malkin was not deserving of the same defense as the others. This is certainly worthy of criticism -- though we note that the most full-throated example of such came from Reihl World View, whose best-know previous defense of the honor of women was the article, "Meghan McCain: Cellulite, Intellect-lite, or Both?" (Sample quote: "Shame on you Republicans for not working harder to elect dear old dad. The country might not have ended up in better hands, but at least one pudgy chick now lacking sense enough to shut up and get a real job would be able to find her Mr. Right who wanted to get his hands on her.")
No such story is complete without a conspiracy theory. One of the many bloggers who covered the event, Tommy Christopher of AOL News, was subsequently fired and his story pulled. Rightbloggers assumed that he had been canned for criticizing Playboy. Christopher's site editor pointed out that Christopher was one of six authors of the defunct AOL property Political Machine who were fired at the same time, and that as a "pro-life Catholic feminist who's written a lot about women's issues and considers everything Playboy does degrading to women," she was unlikely to fire him to protect Playboy.
"Maybe Tommy was just part of the purge. I've heard differing accounts of the timing. Maybe the people at AOL didn't anticipate the immediate criticism they would receive for letting Tommy go, so they decided that firing all the Political Machine writers would allow them to respond to that criticism by saying that Tommy's firing was just one of several lay-offs associated with the re-brand. Or the economy."
This seems a long way to go to suppress a story that everyone who reads blogs -- and certainly more people than every got to read the offensive Playboy item -- has been hearing about for days, particularly at a website that employs conservative writers. But who knows? Large corporations are involved, and we wouldn't put anything past them.
In any case, you can continue to follow the ongoing investigation of the AOL case, or you can move on to the next Playboy-related scandal. In Playboy's Newsfront section, where you can find japes about nannyish pub regulations, Brian Williams' hard-on for Obama, sex toys in Shakespeare's birthplace, Hugo Chavez, and other timewasters, you can also find an item colorfully imputing homosexuality to the two stars of a "Young Cons" rap video.
The item is childish and gross -- though it's nothing regular readers of, say, Ace of Spades or other playfully homophobic rightblogger sites haven't seen already, and plenty. But John Hinderaker of Power Line called it "modern liberalism in action. It is the rule, not the exception, for anyone who participates in public discourse as a conservative to be slimed in this kind of vicious, bullying and frequently obscene manner."
It's almost as if Hinderaker had missed the entire history of the internet. But we suspect this is only pretended ignorance. A few years back his colleague Scott Johnson did a two-part interview with the author of a book about "South Park Conservatism." You may recall this purported brand of conservatism, inspired by the famous cartoon, was about having a "anti-PC attitude" that took in stride the kind of irreverent juvenilia that Hinderaker now finds beyond the pale. Back in those palmy days, the presumption was that smutty giggles over taboo subjects would redound to the benefit of conservatives. As history shows, this didn't work out. It may be that this outrage over the offenses of a superannuated stroke mag, and the imputation that it represents liberalism, is a sign that rightbloggers have finally figured that out. Which would be all to the good: they aren't so great at edgy comedy anyway.