Dehumanizing the protesters

Dehumanizing the protesters

by digby

Amato has been watching Bill O'Reilly so you don't have to:

Bill O'Reilly had his wingnut mojo working Thursday night. He tries to paint Occupy Wall Street protesters as drug trafficking potheads who are also boffing each other outdoors in the squalid conditions of Zuccotti Park.

Billo asked one of his favorite culture warriors Margaret Hoover, who lives a few blocks away from the riff-raff if she smelled the weed. She says, yes, but really no since she didn't actually smell it, but her friend did.

O'Reilly:...three weeks is enough. It's dirty and filthy, there's rats running all over, there's dope all over the place. They're having sex outside at night around. (inaudible) Does that say anything about the entire movement?

This is the oldest story in the wingnut playbook. During the anti-war movement, the cries of "smelly, dirty hippie" were everywhere. Famous case in point: “a hippie is someone who looks like Tarzan, walks like Jane, and smells like Cheetah” --- Ronald Reagan.

I think most people believed that this aversion to hippies probably went away around the time that country music stars started growing their hair long and smoking pot. But the stereotype as it applied to the left never really went away. Back in 2004, you'll surely recall this lovely Ann Coulter bon mot: "My pretty-girl allies stick out like a sore thumb amongst the corn-fed, no make-up, natural fiber, no-bra needing, sandal-wearing, hirsute, somewhat fragrant hippie-chick pie wagons they call 'women' at the Democratic National Convention." Liberal women are commonly derided as being smelly, hairy and fat, regardless of the reality of the situation. In fact, according the Coulter, they aren't even women.

Around the same time, there was this widely held sentiment about the journalist in Iraq who reported the shooting of an unarmed Iraqi by American marines. You may recall that the journalist had shoulder length hair (which is fine when Ted Nugent sports the style.)

The Marine who killed the wounded insurgent in Fallujah deserves our praise and admiration. In a split second decision, he acted valiantly.

On the otherhand, Kevin Sites of NBC is a traitor. Beheading civilians, booby-trapped bodies, suicide bombers?? Sorry hippie, American lives come first. Terrorists don't deserve the benefit of the doubt. This Marine deserves a medal and Kevin Sites, you deserve a punch in the mouth.
So, these derisive stereotypes of smelly, traitorous hippies have had remarkable staying power.

There are a couple of images, however, that seem to really get these people going. The first is the idea that protesters are having sex in the open. I don't need to explain why that would excite them. But they seem to get even more stimulated by the notion that protesters are relieving themselves in public. When I was a kid living in the South, I remember my parents looking at a book that was being passed around featuring alleged pictures of civil rights protesters defecating in the streets. The thing had the neighborhood all aquiver, it was like pornographic contraband. Just recently, Fox Nation got very overexcited by a story from San Antonio about homeless migrants without toilet facilities using an alley.They really love to show pictures of this sort of thing for some reason.

Billo didn't specifically refer to this, but this ridiculous story was circulating all over the rightwing web swamp last week and they were clearly extremely energized by the idea. The police car isn't from Manhattan, so it doesn't appear to be related to the Wall Street protests at all, but the truth of it has never mattered. It's the idea. (On Bill Maher last week, GOP spokesperson Nicolle Wallace said her main worry about Occupy Wall Street was where people were going to the bathroom.)

The left gets dinged, sometimes fairly, for wrongly imputing racist motives to the right wing. But it's clear that there is a strain of rightwing thinking that needs to see their rivals as as traitorous, animalistic beasts who screw and defecate in public. They cannot even be acknowledged as human beings who observe the most basic levels of decent behavior. I'm not sure that has anything to do with race, but it is a very primitive form of tribalism nonetheless. And it's exceedingly creepy to see famous talk show hosts evoke those images. If history is any judge, I would expect to see more of it.