Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Garofalo a Bigot

Poor Janeane Garofalo... her vitriolic anger, unsettling bitterness, and surprising ignorance (in calling the American citizens who attended the Tea-Party protests nothing but "racist rednecks") was a clear example of someone who has fallen for the political stereotypes that permeate our media. Or, maybe she's just damaged her frontal lobe...

The media stereotype of the conservative Republican is of a closed-minded, racist, sexist, and/or elitist voter, with an extreme-fundamentalist Christian bent. The media stereotype of the liberal Democrat, on the other hand, is of an open-minded, conscientious, community-centered citizen who cares about the environment and humanity. (Well, eff! Who wouldn't want to be a Democrat with those kinds of labels?!)

Aaah, stereotypes. Stereotypes are so tempting, aren't they? They make a complicated world simple. Good versus Bad. Right versus Wrong. Janeane Garofalo versus Redneck Racists. In such a world, there are absolutely no Democrats with unfair prejudices or Pro-Life leanings; and there are definitely no feminist Republicans who care about the environment and the community. Except...

Life isn't that simple. It's complicated. There are shades of grey, and overlaps, and conflicting ideas. And perpetrators of over-simplified stereotypes (like Ms. Garofalo and the media) are taking the lazy way out. It's easy to demonize a political party - it's a fast-track toward recruiting students, audiences, and...ourselves. If we believe we are on the "good" side, and the other side is "bad," it certainly cuts down on any kind of thinking we have to do. (And really, after a long day of work, kids, or studies, who the heck has time for thinking?!?)

Who wants to be told that Republicans are simply a group of voters who believe in a small government role in American lives, and Democrats are a group of voters who believe in a large government role? Then you have to actually educate yourself on issues, and you have to start examining what a "smaller government" means, or what the consequences of a "larger government" might entail, and then it gets all deep and intense and introspective, and you find yourself questioning the politics of Brad Pitt and the cast of Gossip Girl, and - wait, wait, WAIT!!! Can't someone just tell me which is the bad side and which is the good side again? I want to be on the good side! I want to be on the good side! (The media happily steps forward...)

But in the real world (without the dismissive "good" vs. "evil" stereotypes), how would Ms. Garofalo's mind be able to handle Commissioner Michael L. Willliams, for example? An African-American Republican who spoke so eloquently at one of the Tea Parties? What would she say about Alfonzo Rachel, or Condoleezza Rice, or Ken Blackwell, or Joseph C. Phillips, or any of the other African-American Republicans whom Janeane dismissed with such ignorant bigotry? Not to mention the millions of Republicans who are white and (get ready for this, Ms. Garofalo) not racists or "rednecks"? How tedious for Ms. Garofalo: she'd actually have to listen to opposing views, and...make an argument about her own. (Nah, you're probably right,'s a whole lot easier to dismiss the other side as racists...)

And in this bizarre media-created "good" vs. "evil" and "broad stereotypes rule" scenario, where exactly do Eliot Spitzer, John Edwards, or Bill Clinton fit in? Because of these three men, it follows that all Democrats are anti-monogamy? When Democrats protest, Janeane will shout "those are just a bunch of misogynistic wife-haters"? And Rod Blagojevich? Because of his actions, all Democrats should be seen as dishonest crooks? Does that make sense?! And yet the media is happy to do that with Republicans, and there are some who actually buy into it. For example, Janeane Garofalo...

It comes down to this: stereotypes are a manipulation tool, and the media is being irresponsible by not admonishing Janeane's remarkably ignorant statements. Surely, if Kelsey Grammar were to call Democrats,"a bunch of mindless and irrational lemmings," the repercussions would be great indeed. We would see headlines, and 60 Minutes specials, and videos with Bono, Sean Penn, and the Black-Eyed Peas holding hands and singing about how "mean words hurt the ozone layer"...or something...

Media, I'm sending you back to grade school, so you can re-learn that whole thing about how damaging stereotypes can be. And while you're there, I'm going to give you a 20-minute TIME OUT, to consider the danger of encouraging broad labels and hyperbole.

Oh, and bring your friend Janeane.

1 comment:

  1. Here is the conservative reaction to Garofalo's Comments: