- The Washington Times - Friday, July 28, 2000


Maybe it started with Shakespeare the commissars of correctness' sweeping dismissals of men and events as being merely dead, merely white and merely male, rendering them antique, irrelevant and dust-heap ready. Remember Stanford, Jesse Jackson, and "Western Civ has got to go"? The toxic fallout from the early days of the culture wars has by now drifted far from campus, taking shape as a corrosive vapor that invisibly poisons public discourse.
Take this week's big national story. When George W. Bush selected Dick Cheney as his running mate, the nation was casually apprised of the pros and cons of selecting, get this, a middle-age, white, male running mate as if Mr. Cheney's age, race and sex were three strikes against him.
Time magazine's Internet edition, for example, saw fit to deride the former White House chief of staff, House leader and secretary of defense as "the classic middle-aged white guy with a paunch." Such a mocking description is not likely to be tailored to fit a Madeleine Albright, for example, a Hillary Clinton, or even a Colin Powell, who as "a classic middle-aged [black] guy" is exempt from such ridicule.
Columnist Arianna Huffington, rather noxiously speculating on the veepstakes, wondered, "Do we really need this national guessing game about just which white, balding, middle-aged 'swing state,' but hardly swinging, male has been anointed…?" The New York Times' Maureen Dowd, long vituperatively fluent in this language of targeted derision, piped up to dismiss Mr. Cheney as a "prosperous, well-fed, balding, bland, male Republican." The Washington Post's Joel Achenbach decided to get really cute and deconstruct the name "Dick Cheney." "It signifies 'generic middle-aged white man,' " wrote Mr. Achenbach. "He's got gray hair, a round face, he's 59 years old, he's had three heart attacks he looks like someone who could do endorsements for lawn fertilizer or weed eaters." (Har, har.)
Leaving Dick Cheney and his name aside for the moment not to mention all those middle-age white men from Thomas Edison to Mark Twain to Paul Newman that such "generic" descriptions fit it is important to note that this kind of uninhibited baiting is uniquely sanctioned for use against one, still rather large sector of society: white men. And the older and more conservative the white man, the more derisive the language. It is worth remembering, for example, the invective Ms. Dowd unleashed against the House managers when she called them "a bunch of out of touch old white guys trying to fathom truth in sex." (Jim Rogan? Lindsay Graham? Tim Hutchinson?) She went on to describe them as "a pack of gray-haired, gray-faced, gray-suited, and gray-spirited … self-appointed Torquemadas … who looked like gouty Florida retirees …" Sputter, sputter. What seems to link such verbal assaults is an effort to undermine, if not delegitimize, white, sometimes old men for their race, age and sex a la Shakespeare, it would seem.
Such mocking attitudes are not unique to the ladies and gentlemen of the press. Consider a "Get Out the Vote 2000" television campaign currently airing across the country. Sponsored by the Federal Voting Assistance Program and the Department of Defense, the campaign targets nonvoters with two public service announcements, one called "Fritz and John," and the other, "Clarence." Fritz and John are two youngish, blond, punk rockers with heavy brows on the unevolved side and nonsensical revolutionary notions. "These guys vote," a narrator says. "Shouldn't you?"
It's almost cute, but taken together with "Clarence," it starts to look as if this voter registration campaign actually derives from a not so subtle and not so civil mode of white-man mockery. Clarence, natch, is a white man and a particularly disgusting one at that. He is a slob in a soiled bathrobe who calls himself an intellectual "qualified to make public policy." He has "yet to find a woman who is my intellectual peer," he adds, while lounging on an old sofa in his underwear. We next see him in an undershirt jiggling his paunch on an exercise machine. Could he be any more vile in 25 seconds? Voice-over: "This guys votes. Shouldn't you?"
You have to wonder where such rampant, institutional ridicule leads. It is almost tempting to make a rather far fetched analogy between white-man-baiting in America, circa 2000, and Jew-baiting in Germany in the early 1930s. The comparison is, of course, flawed, if only because of the disparate size, power and historic position of the two groups. Still, there is in both circumstances something of a similar effort to undermine and even demonize a certain segment of society. According to enlightened media thinking, according even to the government itself, white, male and middle-age is at least boring, if not ridiculous and misguided. Some combination of nonwhite, female and young must therefore equal pure paradise. Of course, you have to wonder where that leaves Al Gore.

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