Of Bathrooms & Moral Panics

“Horace, fetch me the Fainting Couch, this instant!”

One of the many things that kind of drives me batty about our current society is how we really are good at misplacing our priorities. For an example, look no further than last weekend’s women’s room confrontation between Arizona Senator Krysten Sinema and a progressive activist group Living United for Change in Arizona (LUCHA) over the Reconciliation Bill, aka Joe Biden’s Agenda.

I’ll start by saying filming someone in a bathroom is not something I think is a good idea for various reasons, not the least of which is the collateral damage of someone who might just be in there to answer nature’s call and are not expecting to be a bystander in the current reconciliation bill fight. Maybe wait outside for her. And to be truly fair, Sinema could have said “please give me a minute, I can come out and answer a few of your questions.”

That said, the pearl-clutching that ensued was both frustrating and entirely predictable. It was reminiscent of the June 2018 Sarah Huckabee Sanders incident, where the Red Hen restaurant owner asked her to leave, based on her, well, let’s see…oh yes, blatant lying and supporting the tyrannical nut job we had for a president. Trump had pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal the previous month and the controversy over the appalling child separation at the border was in full bloom, but Sarah the Liar not being able to get past the cheese course before getting the heave-ho was the deep deep focus of the DC punditry. “Civility!” cried the columnists before collapsing on the Fainting Couch.

“Civility!” is the battle cry now, as it was then, and before. But civility often doesn’t get the job done and is used by more powerful interests to shut people down. Just look at ACT UP, the LGBTQ rights group that used some loud tactics to get people to give half a damn about AIDS during the 80s. ACT UP members were frustrated that their loved ones were dying and how it was being ignored by people in power. They weren’t being heard. Did they get results? Just ask a certain famous doctor.

See, these tactics that have the pearl clutchers rolling around on the Fainting Couch likely wouldn’t happen if the targets would do the thing that requires the least amount of effort: listening. Sinema has been rather fastidious at not listening to her constituents. She’s quite good at it. An activist posted on Twitter that following her into a bathroom was an act of desperation:

Twitter post describing how Sinema has continually ignored requests for meetings

Many of these folks are the same people who went out in the Arizona heat and knocked on doors for her. While she takes meetings with big donors, she rarely takes meetings with voters. As New York Times writer Reid J. Epstein pointed out this week, she exists in a strange cocoon shut off from the very people she is supposed to represent.

In addition, her behavior is best described as similar to an Internet troll. I was a moderator for a while for an online forum, I recognize this behavior. The little thumbs-down curtsy, the Fuck Off Ring, the bizarre condescending tone and look on her face when people try to ask her questions, and so on. These are all just vague enough for her to say “who me? I’m not a troll – you must have a perception problem” when she is called on them. Gaslighting often seems to be the air she breathes. She rarely says anything about her thoughts but she sure was quick to release a statement about the bathroom incident on Monday.

On top of all this, none of this really matters relative to what the bill includes. There are a lot of things that would help the American people in ways that are desperately needed: two years of community college, child care, Pre-K, climate remediation, etc. But, the libs didn’t protest right again, so that’s what we must focus on. And the fact that it happened on a college campus seemed to add to the condemnation enthusiasm.

You see, Cancel Culture, which is our current favorite moral panic, is focused on lefty college kids and their shut-down shenanigans whenever a terrible right-wing speaker comes to their university to spread more Hate and Bullshit (a good band name, by the way). This is an almost singular focus of All the Smartest Boys and Girls on Substack. Public intellectuals love it, so when the video surfaced, they jumped all over it with the enthusiasm our greyhound shows when we toss a treat on the floor. See! More evidence of the oppressive culture of canceling!

Of course, Cancel Culture is just the latest iteration of “PC Out of Control.” The PC Out of Control movement began in the late 80s and was a sham from the start. The excellent You’re Wrong About podcast did some beautiful work demonstrating how this movement began as a replacement hammer to bang liberals over the head with for communism, given that the Berlin Wall was in the process of falling down that wasn’t working quite as well. Individuals such as Professional Failed Human Dinesh D’Souza amplified incidents that the podcast hosts pointed out crumble under scrutiny. However, it worked, as it does now. Over the past year, a lot of digital and actual ink has been spilled talking about how Cancel Culture is a huge threat to our way of life. Imagine years from now, history students asking their professor why so many Americans were obsessively worried about college students protesting Ann Coulter and @greenguyprogressive341 slagging a New York Times writer on Twitter at a time when an entire political party was trying to dismantle American democracy.

It’s almost as if those folks are not being honest about what side they are really on. Is a cellphone video of someone being questioned in a campus bathroom the right thing to focus on, or a bill that has great potential to be transformational for so many Americans?

The last word goes to these four British fellows that I understand made some catchy music in the 1960s that people seem to enjoy.

2 thoughts on “Of Bathrooms & Moral Panics

  1. Following Sen. Sinema into the bathroom wasn’t the first resort of those trying to get her attention. They might (emphasize might) be subject to approbation if this had been their first resort. From the tape I saw, Sinema was trying to use the bathroom like the Senators Only elevator in the Capitol: A dodge to avoid unpleasant questions. Anyone who was in the bathroom using it for its intended purpose when Sinema ducked in there could hear what was going on outside their stall door. Stay in the stall and wait for the drama to be over, or come out and see what all the hubbub was about.

    In any case, I’m disinclined to listen to lectures about propriety and respect from someone who wears a cutesy-poo ring that says “Fuck Off.”

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