Paying the Vic(k) One Last Time
It's late and I can't sleep, so rather than post a comment here, I'll ramble. Fuck it, it's my blog too.
I love animals as much as the next progressive. Dogfighting is wrong, sick, twisted, and people who enjoy it deserve jail and then some. But it is also more than just a horror from which decent people recoil. It is a kind of porn, a distraction for your mind, something used by the Powers we all oppose, to get you to think about this instead of that. And it's working.
If you had the choice between saving a child's life and a dog's, it's pretty clear what you'd do, right?
To me, that is the essential question. We all have only so much energy, so much constructive rage. And we're all slaves to emotion and sentiment. It's merely a question of which button to push; every person has "that thing" that makes them crazy. Makes them lash out, act and speak without reason, react without thinking. And that's a bad thing- when another knows this about you, they can control you.
Once upon a time, an image of a Black man looking appreciatively at a White woman brought about the strongest emotions in "some people" (read: powerful white men). Today, those men have somewhat less power, and so it's important for those who want to control us, to invigorate our emotional response regardless of our "race" or gender. So what better to do that, than stories and images of brutalized dogs? Is there anything more emotion-generating than images of hurt puppies? Perhaps hurt babies, but that's debatable.
Pets are universally loved, in that only a very few sickos really enjoy watching them be hurt. This cuts across social, economic, and cultural lines. Show an image of a bunny getting its skin peeled off, and 99.9% of viewers will respond. Emotionally. Unthinkingly. I think the word I'm looking for is "viscerally." And so, in this time of Constitutional Crisis, economic implosion, endless war and various other crises, we get: Michael Vick is the Devil! Time for your Minute of Hate.
People of almost all races, genders and socio-economic classes are really hurting today, in this country. They are *mad* and pissed off and generally confused about whom to blame, why they feel that way, and what to do. That's on purpose. Our media is an utterly controlled and constructed Product. From start to finish, every minute of programming you view on TV or read in the papers is vetted, crafted, fit within a worldview. And also: highly separated from reality. Most of you agree on this point, when we're discussing other topics. But in the Vick/dog case, many forget this. Again, I understand why they do. Emotion can overwhelm. That's why we have developed it, genetically speaking. There are times (reproductively speaking) when it makes sense.
But this isn't one of those times. The simple fact is that "Michael Vick" is a media construction, and that construction is serving its ultimate purpose. Let me see if I can explain.
Vick is a beautiful, rich, talented athlete and probably has a host of other desirable qualities. He is, at the same time, a dark skinned, thick lipped, athletic (when many non-Blacks are not) man who exudes a kind of sexual energy that plays directly on white (male) fears about potency. eyeroll, Jeebus, can't we get past this already? He is everything the "cracker" is not, everything that our media teaches us to hate, when things go wrong in our lives that we can't control.
Lost your job? Blame an "unqualified" minority and affirmative action. Lost your job? Blame "Mexican" illegal immigration. Lost your home? Blame "government programs" which have messed with the "free" housing market. Lost your wife? Blame that "thuggish" looking hoodlum on the corner with all the bling-bling hotties macking on his flashy car. And so on. Are you seeing the pattern here? Anytime things get rough for "regular" white folks in this country, the volume gets turned up to 11, with respect to the not-white people who are "causing" the problem. And so we have Vick.
I'll let better bloggers like Lambert remind us all of the fine details of the utter and historical Constitutional Crisis that faces us today. I'll let Atrios remind us of the many, many Wankers in our Serious Beltway media who decide what is the important issue of the day. But I won't let people slide on the Vick case, nor allow them to think that it's not race related. It is not only possible, but probably, on purpose that this story conflates the issues of race, animal abuse, and wealth. What better way to "talk about" these issues, while at the same time avoiding the much more important reality of them in places in which the horror factor is 10 fold? We talk about Michael Vick, and thus we don't talk about 000s of thousands of dead Iraqis (who are brown), or millions upon millions of American citizens (who are also brown or black) languishing in our prison systems, often for no real cause.
Horror porn is a new and disturbing feature of our social culture. I don't think it's been this bad since much, much older times. I hate the Victorians, but at least they imparted to us the sense that horror shouldn't be marketed and profited upon. Or at least, that's my impression of them, no matter. Once upon a time, people in this country wouldn't have discussed the Vick case in "mixed company." Not because he is innocent, but because it isn't decent to "get off" on horror. Today, that seems inverted. Our media brings us ever more graphic, and at the same time ever more unreal images of horrors, so that we are too distracted from the real ones to stomach or notice them.
Short version: did the images in this post cause you to write and respond as greatly and with such emotion as Sarah's hurt dog post did? If so, why? If not, why not? Think on why there is a difference in your response, if any. I would never argue that human beings are more "deserving" of humane treatment, but I will argue that the life of a child is more worth fighting for, and saving from horror, than that of an animal, if given that choice. I guess that's a false choice, because we should be able to protect both sets of innocents. But in truth, it seems we can't. Or rather, it seems we don't want to. We can get very, Very upset about animals. We can also be so about dead Iraqi children.
What does all this overflowing emotion actually accomplish?
Well, at the very least it has to make at least some of us think. I suppose that's the silver lining here.
Anyhoo- I won't make this any longer by linking to a bunch of depressing war and prison statistics. But they are there, to be found and read and even to make your bile rise, should you want to consider them. Perhaps I'm just an illogical hypocrite, but I do feel that in this age, in these times, I have to prioritize. I just can't seem to be more upset about one man who kills dogs horribly when I consider a cabal of men who not only murder innocent foreigners, but do so much more to millions of people around the world. And not a few animals, either, I will add. And plants, and ecosystems, and fish...
Who is the real enemy here? Vick is guilty, or so he said to our justice system. Are there no white dog fighters in the NFL, or America? If so, when are they going to get this much attention? Conversely, are we making so much progress on the environment, the occupation, the debt/deficit, peak oil, freedom and democracy, that speaking about the small but very ugly horrors of one rich black man is the best use of our time?
The Abyss awaits you, and you can look into it and come back stronger. Or, you can fool yourself with the ersatz, Hollywood version of "confronting truth." The choice is yours. But don't tell me that it's morally superior to weep over hurt animals, and at the same time ignore destructive humans who not only hurt animals, but also lots and lots of people, concurrently and for the same greedy and selfish reasons. Michael Vick killed a bunch of dogs, horribly. Is that the worst thing going on in the world today? No. So why is it that I have to read, hear about, and discuss his case more than any other issue this week?
That is what I call "fucked up." And I didn't even really talk about the American prison system, of which Vick and also many innocent people are forced to be part. If you call getting repeatedly gang-raped, infected with AIDS, addicted to drugs, beaten and locked down and left for weeks in isolation "justice" for any crime, you're as sick as those who force dogs to fight. I'm not saying this will happen to Vick, but it does happen to millions of Americans daily, many of whom commited no actual crime, legally or ethically, at all. But- Nevermind! another Black man has transgressed the privilige the White Father foolishly granted him, so fuggetaboud all that and turn up the volume on the Game.
What- this horror hasn't made you stop sending your money (for cable, tickets, player's jerseys espn, SI) to pay ig'nant hoods like Vick those millions so he can abuse dogs for fun? Or did you think he is the only NFL player involved? Whatever.
OK, I'm done with this issue for good. Can we agree that pro sports are likely just as corrupt as national politics, and thus either blend them together in our outrage, or ignore the former because the latter affects us all more? Christ, this is why i hatehatehate our "culture of celebrity."
Just Kill your TV and I promise, this sort of shit will go away. At least at the level of Millionaire Hoodlum Nigger with a Bigger Cock than You. That's what matters here, right?