Monday, April 22, 2013

Meet James Taranto

James Taranto has uttered something nasty again*:

TARANTO: One fascinating thing about this is this piece was published no later than 9:03 PM on Wednesday evening, because that's when it first appears on the New York Times' Twitter feed. The last Senate vote on amendments to the gun bill was a bit after 6 [PM]. Giffords appeared at the White House at 5:35 [PM] when we saw that enraged rant by the president. The Manchin-Toomey [background check] provision was the first vote. That was at 4:04 PM. So if you read this piece it's presented as a cry from the heart, as Giffords' personal reaction as somebody who's been wounded by gun violence to the betrayal of these Senators. So we are supposed to believe that somehow in less than five hours a woman who has severe impairments of her motor and speech functions was able to produce 900 publishable words and put in an appearance in the White House in the course of it. So I think that's a little bit odd.

Taranto is pretty good at nastiness.  I keep coming across his writings on us wimminfolk, on minorities and on various other groups he detests.  He is a believer in evolutionary psychology views of women as gold-diggers who are not really interested in having mutually enjoyable sex, only in marrying upwards and such.

But that's not especially nasty, just the usual crud.  This, however, IS nasty:

On July 25, 2012, Taranto sparked outrage online by posting the following comment to his Twitter account, in reference to the victims and survivors of the July 2012 Aurora, Colorado mass shooting: "I hope the girls whose boyfriends died to save them were worthy of the sacrifice".[18][19]
Taranto then tries to explain that tweet:

We intended this to be thought-provoking, but to judge by the response, very few people received it that way. The vast majority found it offensive and insulting. This column has often argued that a failure of public communication is the fault of the public communicator, and that's certainly true in this case. What follows is an attempt to answer for this failure with a circumspect accounting of our thoughts.

What makes the stories of Jansen Young, Samantha Yowler and Amanda Lindgren especially poignant is that their boyfriends' dying acts simultaneously dealt them an unfathomable loss and gave them an invaluable gift—a gift of life. Their loss is all the more profound because the gift was one of love as well. In instinctively making the ultimate sacrifice, each of these men proved the depth of his devotion. They passed a test to which most men, thankfully, are never put—and then they were gone.

These three women owe their lives to their men. That debt can never be repaid in kind, because life is for the living and cannot be returned to the dead. The closest they can come to redeeming it is to use the gift of their survival well – to live good, full, happy lives.

People live on after death in the memories of those who loved them. Sometimes when this columnist does something we consider worthwhile, our thoughts turn to our father, who died four years ago: "Dad would be proud." That is our hope for Young, Yowler and Lindgren: that in the years to come, each of them will have many opportunities to reflect that Jon or Matt or Alex would be proud of her.

But that doesn't work, because he used the past tense of the verb "to be."  The obvious reading of his tweet is an MRA one:

Men sacrifice themselves for women All The Time, then a mention of the Titanic and not a mention of the fact that the Titanic was a very unusual shipwreck in that sense.  Therefore, women, as a group,  should be grateful to men, as a group, and probably should graciously subjugate themselves as a way to show that  gratefulness.

Or this is what I've read on many, many MRA sites, and Taranto's tweet fits right into that ideology.

The problem with his tweet is not the incredible acts of self-sacrifice of those young men.  That is astonishing and worth respecting.  The problem with Taranto's tweet is that the girlfriends (who probably had no say in what took place) should now be judged as to whether they were worthy of such a final sacrifice.  Apply that same thinking to any other disaster where someone saves a life at the cost of his or her own.  Do we then read anyone writing to ask whether those who were saved are worthy of the sacrifice?

We do not.  And that's what is so nasty about Taranto's view.  It's sexist at the least, perhaps even misogynist.  On the other hand, his tweet says nothing about the shooter in that massacre or the shooter's gender.  Just like the MRA sites never mention whom it is that the brave men are defending women against.  Because it is very very rarely against other women.

I have no interest in framing such questions as part of the battle of the sexes or any other ridiculous term people use for sexual politics.  But that's how Taranto's tweet reads to me, and the only way to explain why it is nasty is to clarify the background.

Then to this most recent Taranto nastiness:

His insinuation that Gabrielle Gifford couldn't have written her op-ed herself,  in the time window she had, given her brain damage.  Now, I suspect that most politicians don't actually write the op-eds that bear their names all on their own.  Never mind.  Let's suppose that they do.

Media Matters does mention that she could have written her op-ed earlier.  But the op-ed itself mentions that she has trouble speaking, not that she has trouble thinking:
Speaking is physically difficult for me. But my feelings are clear: I’m furious.
She says nothing about how difficult or easy writing is for her.  It is Taranto who decides that because she has difficulty speaking she must not be able to write, either.  And therefore, what?

That she doesn't hold the opinions stated in the piece?  That she is a marionette operated by someone else?  What is it, exactly, that Taranto intends to say with that quote which began this post?
*Via Eschaton.