March 8, 2016
For readers to catch my drift here, I need to provide some context.
This article sprouted—rapidly—from a post I’d been making all over Facebook, lambasting Daily Kos for their fascistic decision to censor truth-telling about Hillary Clinton starting on March 15 (appropriately enough, the Ides of March). Most of us who recognize the Ides of March do so from being forced to study Shakespeare’s play Julius Caesar and learn its famous line “Beware the ides of March.” Essentially, the day Julius Caesar, who’d made a lot of enemies for craving personal power a little too obviously, was destined to meet his doom. Basically what—apart from the bloodshed—all decent, politically informed people hope happens to Hillary Clinton.
However, it’s clearly not Hillary Clinton who needs to fear 2016’s Ides of March. Rather, it’s the politically relevant truth, an entity whose existence is utterly incompatible with the continued political existence of Hillary Clinton. For on March 15, Daily Kos—currently a possible, though hardly a go-to source of Hillary-destroying truth—will ban all such truth from its pages. Supposedly in the name of unifying Democrats behind Clinton, whom Kos has prematurely (and need I add, dictatorially?) decided to coronate as the Democratic Party nominee, no matter the number of big primaries remaining. In other words, a putting on notice of Bernie Sanders supporters that the crucial truth of the revolutionary superiority of our candidate to Clinton is henceforth banned from Kos publication. Et tu, Daily Kos?
Now, of course (in the Huff Post article I cited), Daily Kos claims it will continue to publish “constructive criticism” of Clinton. In other words, the type of toothless, utterly wussy criticism incompatible with the publicly needed insight of many Sanders supporters that Clinton is a corrupt public menace against whom we need to fight a political revolution. Or, in my preferred, politically correct usage, that she’s worse than raw sewage. A comparison I consider all the more important, since its fully captures the ugly political truth about Clinton while avoiding the sexism of the criticisms of Clinton that Daily Kos—by specific example—says it intends to ban. For raw sewage, the last time I checked, is utterly, unobjectionably genderless.
See, the specific example of “the liberal-themed name calling” toward Clinton Daily Kos says it will ban (presumably as unconstructive) is as follows: “she’s a sell-out corporatist whore oligarch.” Now I posted this all over Facebook, asking the question, “Now, allowing for the metaphorical use of ‘whore’ … what about that statement isn’t simply TRUE?” Can anyone seriously object to the words “sell-out,” “corporatist,” and “oligarch” being applied to Clinton, since a mountain of evidence supports such usage?
Granted, “sell-out” requires a certain amount of interpretation, since it implies holding principles (does Clinton hold any?) which the person in question is clearly ready to sacrifice for money, power, or some related reward. Since Hillary Clinton claims to be a progressive in the same context where Bernie Sanders calls himself one, it seems fair to apply the standard of being an honest New Dealer—which Noam Chomsky rightly considers Sanders, poo-pooing the idea that he’s in any strong sense a socialist. Judged by that standard, Hillary Clinton who takes hundreds of millions of dollars in corporate and oligarch money and in return opposes a $15 per hour minimum wage and single-payer health care while favoring jobs- and environment-killing trade agreements and refusing to pledge not to cut Social Security, is clearly a sell-out.
Therefore, the only objectionable term in the language Daily Kos plans to ban is whore. Readers need to remember that language changes over time with changes in technology, history, and—what’s most relevant here—human consciousness. Sometimes, for the sake of social justice, we must sacrifice language that, in other ages, served a useful moral function—often with the prospect of finding no suitable replacement. Such is the word whore, which in an earlier, patriarchal world, served as powerful metaphor of moral criticism. For example, whore and various colorful variants on it are all over Shakespeare, serving as powerful metaphors of moral criticism in both his comedies and dramas.
So, if we’re considering the language to be banned from Daily Kos from a standpoint of truth, and not as giving offense to historically persecuted groups we now rightly seek to protect, we must consider the metaphorical truth value of whore in that statement, even if we don’t encourage use of a term now rightly thought insensitive. For what’s foremost in pressing a claim of censorship is not sensitivity toward historically persecuted groups, but a desire by the censoring publication to ban publicly important truth. (Censorship of insensitive language is defensible on different grounds.) What seems important here is that even the word whore—the only objectionable word in Daily Kos’s example of language it plans to censor—carries a large dose of metaphorical truth as applied to Hillary Clinton. By lumping that objectionable term with others in an example Daily Kos gives blanket condemnation, Daily Kos pulls two sleazy rhetorical tricks: (1) it deceives readers into thinking the other words used, sell-out, corporatist, and oligarch, are as objectionable as the word whore and (2) it ignores the vast metaphorical truth about Clinton the objectionable word whore contains.
As readers interested not in giving unneeded insult to women, but in uncovering the damning truths about Clinton Daily Kos is seeking to censor, we must focus on the historical, metaphorical meanings whore carried in an earlier, admittedly patriarchal age. I can think of two, both of which flavor Shakespeare’s frequent use of the word (alone or in colorful combinations like “whoreson dog” as a vehicle of morally tinged abuse for both men and women.
In times when an overly high value was placed on female virginity—considered (at least until marriage) a woman’s most precious treasure—virginity easily became a metaphorical stand-in for the real most precious thing, morally speaking, about a person: that person’s integrity. So just as whores were despised for selling their precious virginity, people of either gender were despised metaphorically as whores for selling their personal integrity for money, power, or some other worldly reward. Given how much money Hillary takes from questionable sources—be they private prisons, fossil fuel corporations, pro-Israel fanatics like Haim Saban, or human-rights-violating nations seeking arms deals—it’s pretty hard to deny her metaphorical whoredom.
The other chief metaphorical usage of whore I can think of is the meaning of faithlessness: in her quest of money, there is simply no man to whom a “whore” will stay sexually faithful—a fact reflected in her sexual partners receiving the ultra-common generic name “John” (made even more generic by being lower-cased in sexual contexts). So again, in Hillary Clinton’s case, this faithlessness is perfectly reflected in her well-earned reputation for flip-flopping—to the extent that on many issues, it’s almost impossible to discern what she (or her husband Bill) actually believes. In fact, the term most associated with the Clintons—triangulation—implies a faithless electoral promise to Democrats’ progressive base that neither Clinton has the least intent of keeping once actually entrusted with governing. Again, it seems established beyond doubt what kind of woman Hillary Clinton is; the only quibble is about the price. Given the fees she received for her Wall Street speeches, or the required donation at her fundraising dinners, that price is well beyond the means of your average progressive ”john.” Or Jane.
So even the lone objectionable term in the example language Daily Kos seeks to ban is rich in metaphorical truth, even if now off-limits for respectable usage. I fully understand why, even if no replacement language remains that can bear the same burden of precise moral condemnation.
To compensate for that loss, I suggest we condemn on different moral grounds and unfavorably compare Hillary and all Republican candidates to raw sewage. On the one hand, this usage allows us to admit that Clinton is a lesser evil than Republicans while rationally acknowledging just how evil she is. On the other hand, it allows us to hate the current crop of unworthy candidates both parties and mainstream media are undemocratically shoving down our throats—without in any way admitting to having hateful dispositions. After all, most of us give little thought at all to raw sewage, but would almost certainly hate it if it suddenly ceased to be the concern solely of sanitation engineers and voluntarily strove to impose its noxious effects on our national and planetary futures.
Best of all, no one who unfavorably compares both major parties’ front-running candidates to raw sewage can reasonably be accused of sexism. Or bad taste.
Please consider taking Revolt Against Plutocracy’s Bernie or Bust pledge, aimed at making the Clintons, Trumps, Cruzes, and Rubios of this world purely an affair for sanitation engineers and not for decent voting citizens.