August 30, 2003

The L.A. Times' Ongoing Gan...

The L.A. Times' Ongoing Gangbang of Schwarzenegger's Non-Existent Homophobia: A day after overrated columnist Steve Lopez made the preposterous accusation that Schwarzie's Oui interview contains "slurs against gays" (I argued why that's foolish over at Hit & Run), media columnist Tim Rutten writes:

Elsewhere in the interview he said ... that he had no "hang-ups" about homosexuals, whom he nonetheless described with a vulgar epithet.

Rough stuff.

Doesn't that seem to suggest that Arnold was wrong, that he actually did have hang-ups about homosexuals, as evidenced by the fact that he used some word so offensive that it can't even be printed in a family newspaper?

Well, that "vulgar epithet" -- "fag" -- has been quoted in the L.A. Times frequently in the past, several times without a hint of recrimination directed at the speaker. Take, for example, one of the paper's many fawning odes to Korean-American comic Margaret Cho: "She's a Stand-up Academic for a Day: Comedian Margaret Cho Brings Her One-Woman Act To a UCLA Class on Race Relations," from March 19, 2001. An excerpt:

Cho has found tremendous freedom by rejecting boundaries and labels. In her work, she dives into the culture of weight-shame afflicting American women, mocks Korean American hyper-conservatism, outs a slimy producer who glommed onto one of her breasts and exhorts gay men to cherish "fag hags" like her. ("We went to the prom with you!")
So, the "vulgar epithet" is OK, in the year 2001, as long as some of the speaker's best friends are gay. Or (to mine other articles from the archive), it's not worthy of Ruttenesque rebuke when the speaker is Gore Vidal, or an actor in a play, or the author of a book under review (one LAT book review described the quoted phrase "fat old fag" as "giddily iconoclastic").

But if it's from a muscle-bound Republican actor, it's just more evidence of how, in Rutten's words, "the interview is so thoroughly lewd, vulgar and offensive," and contains "a virtually endless stream of lewd and vulgar expressions." No matter that, as I mentioned in the Reason post, the interview was in freakin' 1977, back when queers were something you "smeared" (in the popular children's football game), not words in the titles of top-rated television shows. Not to mention the rather important detail that the use of the "vulgar epithet" came in a paragraph in which Arnold took the decidedly unpopular stance of standing up for gays against unjust stereotyping, and declaring he wouldn't feel at all threatened by the presence of homosexuals in his, the most overtly macho of sports. In 1977. The only thing offensive about this -- and it's deeply offensive, in my view -- is that an obviously tolerant, non-homophobic person, who was obviously tolerant and non-homophobic way before it was cool, can be slimed, by supposedly enlightened journalists, because he used one word 26 years ago that they don't like now. Unless when spoken by Margaret Cho or Gore Vidal, that is. UPDATE: Don't miss Robert Tagorda's further mining of the Times' archives, in which he uncovers a 10-year-old article about Arnold's involvement in an organization "formed to combat discrimination against persons with AIDS." Also, Layne makes an important point about the politics of group sex.

Posted by at August 30, 2003 05:11 PM
Comments

This campaign is proving to be a good study in how journalists distort the truth or provide only parts of the truth in order to advance their own journalistic agendas. There are two worlds here -- the mass media world, in which (presumably) the majority of people take whatever a journalist says at face value, and the wired world, where people (presumably a small minority) with the motivation to do so can get the real details.

How many people are actually going to take the time and read the Oui interview for themselves instead of relying on the misrepresentations of journalists.

Misrepresentations have always driven political campaigns, but when journalists, with all the tools of the trade and the INTERNET available to them, do it, it's doubly galling.

Good post, Matt.

Posted by: Howard Owens at August 30, 2003 09:07 PM

You're totally right about the "homophobia." But don't you think he comes off a bit like a giant blockhead in the thing? I know my first reaction to the interview wasn't "Yes. This is the guy I want making policy for California."

Posted by: spacetoast at August 31, 2003 02:49 AM

It also should be noted, that 1977 was the height of the Anita Bryant backlash, when the OJ girl led "Save Our Children" initiatives to roll back hard won gay civil rights ordinances in local communities across the country - initiatives that, in general, won with 66 - 33 % majorities. For Schwarzenegger to so casually identify with, and candidly support, a minority with a losing political record, proves the point he made about not living like he was running for office. It is contemptible for any gay rights supporter, or the partisan hacks at the LA Times and SF Chron to portray it differently.

I'd love to see any professional politician's record on the subject back in 1977 for comparison.

Posted by: Ray Eckhart at August 31, 2003 04:07 AM

This campaign is proving to be a study in good old fashion American political hypocrisy.

Arnold is doing for interracial gang banging what Clinton did for the blow job - and the ever more conflicted and confused throngs rave on. Decadense! Its all good! Arnold brings reality to the illusionary world of politics. We need more of it.

Meanwhile though, who the f--- is watching the nation's cash register?

Nit pick;

"in his, the most overtly macho of sports."

As practiced by Arnold, body building is not a sport, rather it is -- to quote the roid freak, pot smoking, interracial gangbanging hulk of a man -- "an art form" .

Good post.

ps; Gray Davis should drop out but leave his fabulous hairdo in the race. I think it could win without him.
We've had politicians win over dead guys but no one has won an election running against a hairdo.
His hairdo would make a great Governor for California.
Sinatra campaign song;
Dooby dooby do . . .
California is recalling . . .
Vote for the dooby do . . .
Its all so enthralling . . .

Posted by: Warren Celli at August 31, 2003 06:43 AM


My own opinion concerning the interview: It was in _Oui_ fer cryin' out loud, a second rate Penthouse wannabe in 1977, a very lame year for anyone who can remember it. Why anyone is taking this seriously is utterly beyone me. That said, I wouldn't vote for him to be governor.

Posted by: Michael Farris at August 31, 2003 09:28 AM

Excellent work, Matt. It really boggles my mind how, in the course of writing their pieces, Lopez and Rutten could have forgotten about these articles.

Posted by: Robert Tagorda at August 31, 2003 11:36 AM

Great post!

John Lennon used the term "fag" in a much more denigrating manner, and I don't think he is considered a bigot. More likely, his language was a product of his times and culture.

Arnold Schwarzenegger is a spontaneous person for whom English is a second language, and it is quite obvious that he has never shown any ill will towards gays. If Schwarzenegger is to be attacked for well-meaning (if badly worded) 1977 remarks, isn't it also fair to at least ask Cruz Bustamante whether he disavows statements like this -- made by "La Voz de Aztlan" just last month?

Posted by: Eric Scheie at August 31, 2003 11:47 AM

I believe Arnold once posed for a gay magazine, didn't he? Way back in the 70s, I think. Buck naked, too. I wish I had the book/anthology that reproduced the photo from the magazine. It might be an interesting diversion to investigate what contemporary public attitudes would be towards a *male* posing in the buff (full frontal, as I remember it. And no, he wasn't partic lesbians back in 1977 - did none of these guys ever use language like "fag"?

Posted by: Regino at August 31, 2003 11:51 AM

"Arnold Schwarzenegger is a spontaneous person for whom English is a second language."

I think we've found a campaign slogan.

Posted by: spacetoast at August 31, 2003 01:16 PM

Hey, I agree that Arnold is pretty obviously not anti-gay, but on the other hand the Oui interview really was "thoroughly lewd, vulgar and offensive." If you're going to write about this at all, it's hard to avoid saying something like that.

Reading Rutten's piece, I sure didn't get the impression that he was trying to claim Arnold was anti-gay. I think you may be reading too much into a single phrase.

Posted by: Kevin Drum at August 31, 2003 05:22 PM

The alleged homophobia of A.S. is a non-starter, and already has pretty much disappeared from the coverage of this campaign. Where this interview is killing him is the manner it shows his utter contempt for women. When half the public is laughing at a candidate, and the other half is repulsed, you have some serious problems. Maybe Ueberroth has a chance after all.

Posted by: Steve Smith at August 31, 2003 05:46 PM

I don't know many women, at least ones who look like women, who are worried at all about his sex life. This is a made-up issue. I'm far more creeped out by Cybill (she dated Elvis!) playing tonsil hockey with Grave Davis.

Posted by: Sasha at August 31, 2003 05:51 PM

Kevin -- Even if Rutten was not trying to insinuate that Arnold is anti-gay, I think a reasonable person may conclude from the column that Arnold's overall sentiment toward homosexuals in the interview was negative, which it wasn't. Also, the use of the phrase "vulgar epithet" (as opposed to "the word 'fags'") is at the least inconistent with previous Times usage. And nothing I can see justifies Steve Lopez' claim that the Oui interview contained "slurs against gays."

As for "thoroughly lewd, vulgar and offensive" ... well, that's in the eye of the beholder. I think Rutten & you & Smith overstate it, but I won't pretend that my sense of propriety isn't twisted.

Posted by: Matt Welch at August 31, 2003 06:22 PM

All I can sya about this is... a lot of people who missed out on all those orgies in the 70s are doing a lot of sudden moralizing... hmmm....

Posted by: Roger L. Simon at August 31, 2003 08:44 PM

Once again, Mr. Simon uses his advance age to pull rank on the rest of us....

Posted by: Steve Smith at August 31, 2003 10:27 PM

Once again, Mr. Simon uses his advanced age to pull rank on the rest of us....

Posted by: Steve Smith at August 31, 2003 10:27 PM

To Regino: Some ex-editor at SPY has posted Ahnuld in all his glory from that mags archives. Can't remember his name but try using your imagination and googling. Incidentally, speaking as a fairly conventional conservative Republican, I came away more, rather than ditor at SPY has posted Ahnuld in all his glory from that mags archives. Can't remember his name but try using yless likely, too vote Ahnuld, tho I could see why he might just as soon his kids not read the whole thing.

For Matt: Are you with the LAT or Kaus when it comes to Cruz' Mecha connections. Seems to me either we're being too soft, ie condescending, on the mechistas (including Villaraigosa et al) or too hard on the KKK/Aryan brotherhood. As one of the "outsiders" from my schooldays, I'll vote for the former. Excellent post btw.

Posted by: Lloyd at September 2, 2003 12:32 PM

Lloyd -- Long story short, I have no real clue about the MEChA stuff, and am reserving my public finger-wagging for when I don't feel so ignorant. Accusing someone of racism (or proximity to racism) is a grave charge, far too easily made, and there are only a handful of organizations (such as the KKK) of which I have enough confidence to say "oh, these are racist yahoos," or "oh, these are not."

As I mentioned to someone in an e-mail today, I've been familiar with (even comfortable around) the concept of "La Raza" for at least half my life, and *never* did it *occur* to me that the phrase meant its literal translation: The Race. I never even connected the two. I have little doubt that some people are exaggerating the KKK analogy, and I have little doubt that indeed the founding documents of MEChA were filled with some nasty racialist stuff. In all, I think, it's a good thing that this is being exhumed and debated, and that the debate isn't one-sided. But I won't really join in until I actually know what I'm talking about.

Posted by: Matt Welch at September 2, 2003 02:47 PM

Fair points, and I'll agree "la raza" is more of an ethnic/cultural reference than racial, tho disagree whether today's KKK is fundamentally different from MeCha aside from the PC factor. But that don't make it right. And I still say the adults in our liberal, politically correct media and institutions have let "chicanos" off the hook for too long now out of a PC mindset and indifference to the detriment of all concerned. On the other hand, a lot of white separatists with whom I disagree, are, like many MeCha members, not inherently evil or bad people. Might help to compromise in both directions on this.

Posted by: Lloyd at September 2, 2003 03:38 PM

Lloyd -- You might well be right on all of that, and I certainly suspect you are in terms of the "free pass" issue (I'd guess that most people familiar with MEChA are rather bewildered at the sudden attention, not unlike the Nader/Chomskyites were on Sept. 12, 2001, when people were suddenly paying attention to their foreign policy B.S.). But I'd rather conduct some research on my own, and *then* pass whatever judgment. It's possible, for example, that the phrase "La Raza" has always itself insinuated a screw-the-gabacho racialist aspect (I doubt it, but I honestly have no idea). So, I will try to find out, and get back to you when I do.

I'm just kicking myself for not managing to get Bustamante on the record about MEChA before everyone else did. From hanging out at the immigration-obsessive websites, I knew this would be a campaign issue weeks before it broke....

Posted by: Matt Welch at September 2, 2003 04:10 PM

Suggest Pejman Yousefsadeh's site for the definitive, highly documented, anti-MeCha case.

Posted by: Lloyd at September 3, 2003 05:36 PM
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t this is being exhumed and debated, and that the debate isn't one-sided. But I won't really join in until I actually know what I'm talking about.

Posted by: Matt Welch at September 2, 2003 02:47 PM

Fair points, and I'll agree "la raza" is more of an ethnic/cultural reference than racial, tho disagree whether today's KKK is fundamentally different from MeCha aside from the PC factor. But that don't make it right. And I still say the adults in our liberal, politically correct media and institutions have let "chicanos" off the hook for too long now out of a PC mindset and indifference to the detriment of all concerned. On the other hand, a lot of white separatists with whom I disagree, are, like many MeCha members, not inherently evil or bad people. Might help to compromise in both directions on this.

Posted by: Lloyd at September 2, 2003 03:38 PM

Lloyd -- You might well be right on all of that, and I certainly suspect you are in terms of the "free pass" issue (I'd guess that most people familiar with MEChA are rather bewildered at the sudden attention, not unlike the Nader/Chomskyites were on Sept. 12, 2001, when people were suddenly paying attention to their foreign policy B.S.). But I'd rather conduct some research on my own, and *then* pass whatever judgment. It's possible, for example, that the phrase "La Raza" has always itself insinuated a screw-the-gabacho racialist aspect (I doubt it, but I honestly have no idea). So, I will try to find out, and get back to you when I do.

I'm just kicking myself for not managing to get Bustamante on the record about MEChA before everyone else did. From hanging out at the immigration-obsessive websites, I knew this would be a campaign issue weeks before it broke....

Posted by: Matt Welch at September 2, 2003 04:10 PM

Suggest Pejman Yousefsadeh's site for the definitive, highly documented, anti-MeCha case.

Posted by: Lloyd at September 3, 2003 05:36 PM
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