Tuesday, January 23

CNN's Paul Zahn: Fascism's Kinder, Gentler Face

The fifth of the "Fourteen Points of Fascism" compiled by academic Laurence Britt in his historical analysis of fascism's common themes is "rampant sexism."
... 5.) Rampant Sexism: The governments of fascist nations tend to be almost exclusively male-dominated. Under fascist regimes, traditional gender roles are made more rigid. Opposition to abortion is high, as is homophobia and anti-gay legislation and national policy.
It's legal again, to fire gov't workers for being gay
Bush calls for Constitutional ban on same-sex marriages
Bush refuses to sign U.N proposal on women's "sexual" rights
W. David Hager chairman of the FDA's Reproductive Health Drugs Advisory Committee does not prescribe contraceptives for single women, does not do abortions, will not prescribe RU-486 and will not insert IUDs.
The State Department7 has awarded an explicitly anti-feminist U.S. group part of a US$10 million grant to train Iraqi women in political participation and democracy.
A Boston area American Studies professor, Gail Dines on Monday wrote of some surreal gendered encounters with friendly TV fascism in the guise of CNN's Paul Zahn, the kind of gal only well-hung* fascists greet with the "Sieg heil" salute as they goose-step it out for Amerika.


CNN's “Journalism” is a Fool's Paradise
by Gail Dines
January 21, 2007

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me a couple of dozen times, and shame on me -- but also shame on what passes for journalism on television.

This truism comes to mind after my appearance on Paula Zahn Now on CNN this week to discuss the Duke rape case. I'm not naive about these kinds of shows -- which I know are not really about journalism but about ratings, most easily obtained through sensationalism and playing to the prejudices of the audience. But over the past 20 years I've gone on a number of them to discuss my work as a sociologist on issues of racism and sexism in media. Like many progressives, I do that with eyes wide open, knowing the limits but realizing it's one of the few shots we have at a mass audience.

But this time I foolishly had high hopes after a producer from Zahn's show actually conducted a thoughtful screening interview, unlike any I had spoken with in the past. Most producers typically are uninterested in my views and tend to ask banal questions in these pre-interviews over the phone. They usually don't care about my arguments, but simply want to check that I have a big mouth (which, I admit, I do) and will not freeze in fear when the cameras roll. When they recognize that I am not someone who is likely to cower in the face of adversarial arguments, that's enough for them.

But this CNN producer kept grilling me with questions that suggested that they were interested in doing a show that looked at the historical and contemporary issues of violence against black women in this society. Four phone calls later, I agreed to fly to Durham to do the show.

I was told I would be in at least two segments, possibly three. That promise was crucial; there's no sense flying halfway across the country to say a couple of sentences between the ads. So I dug in to prepare, reading and consulting colleagues (all of them busy activists and academics, including Mark Anthony Neal, Imani Perry, Robert Jensen and Jackson Katz) about the way the media has framed the story. What an utter waste of time and energy.

The first inkling that something wasn't going according to plan was on my ride from the airport to the makeshift outdoor studio at the Durham courthouse. A different producer called to tell me that although I study both race and gender, they don't want this show to be about gender. I answered that this woman was brought in as a stripper and is charging that the lacrosse team sexually abused her -- how could this not also be about gender? Yes, yes, yes, she answered, but the show is focusing on race. I know enough by now not to argue with a senior producer an hour before taping, and so I simply agreed.

The second clue was one of the people on the panel with me -- the Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson, an African American man who has made his name by slandering blacks for their racism against whites and their continuing "unwillingness" to climb out of poverty. For Peterson, black men have been emasculated by black women, and his project is about making black men "real men" again. The one saving grace was that the other guest on my panel was Kristal Brent Zook, an insightful journalist with Essence magazine....

Read the rest of Dines' piece here.


*In his 1995 essay titled "In Praise of Invective" ("At the end of a murderous century, let’s curse the enemies of the individual"), American poet Charles Simic argued that groups denied access to civil justice to settle their grievances against the government are permitted (and encouraged) to use profanity when referencing members of the suppressing elite.

As a Heartland American whose civil, constitutional and voting rights were "disappeared" by the Bush White House in its contrived post-9/11 police state, I will be invoking my "Simic Rights" by incorporating more phraseology like "well hung" in my writing.

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