Monday, December 14, 2015

Misogyny and the Hillary-hating Left


I was onto Doug Henwood's misogyny over a year ago when I tangled with him via a friend of a Facebook friend, but it's very gratifying to see others making public statements about his utter derangement on the subject of Hillary Clinton.

Henwood is the leading leftist Hillary hater - he hates Clinton so much he's willing to dig up the debunked Whitewater charges to do it, while insulting any of his critics who call him out for being an unethical crank as Gene Lyons found out:
Because he finds her too close to Wall Street and too hawkish on foreign policy, Henwood evidently feels it his moral duty to blacken Hillary Clinton's character. It's not enough to say she voted for the Iraq War and favored bombing Syria. Henwood had to dig up "Whitewater" to prove her a liar and a cheat. 
Then, after I wrote a column pointing out that almost everything he'd written about that phony scandal was nonsense, Henwood began calling me bad names on social media. "Clinton towel boy" was one. 
So I posted the following on his Facebook page:
"I find it interesting that when confronted with several quite basic factual errors in his description of the great Whitewater scandal of legend and song, Doug Henwood's response is name-calling. That tells me pretty much all I need to know about him.
"However, it's false to say that the late Jim McDougal's savings and loan financed the Clintons' Whitewater investment. He didn't buy it until five years later. Another bank made the loan, for which both Clintons were jointly and severally responsible — meaning they'd have to pay it off regardless of what happened to McDougal or his other investments. Which they did. Whitewater cost the S&L nothing.
Henwood, like many men on the far Left - and their enablers like Henwood's wife Liza Featherstone and their good buddy Amber A'Lee Frost - just don't like feminists generally, unless they are, I guess, members of the proletariat and/or Marxists.

I first heard of Doug Henwood when he attacked the Fawcett Society as "bourgeois feminists"  on Facebook.
Doug HenwoodYesterday at 8:47am ·
Man, isn't this bourgeois feminism for you? T-shirts cost a nickel apiece (presumably that's printing cost, not the entire t-shirt), sell for $70.

The Society has been around since 1866 fighting for women's rights. And apparently the story was wrong anyway:
UPDATE: Much to our relief, The Fawcett Society has confirmed that the “This Is What A Feminist Looks Like” tee was not produced in a factory with unethical work conditions, as reported by Dazed Digital. “We have been particularly pleased to receive evidence that 100% of workers are paid above the government-mandated minimum wage and all workers are paid according to their skills and years of service,” said Fawcett’s Eva Neitzert to Dazed of the factory in which the garments were made. “The standard working week is 45 hours, and workers are compensated (at a higher rate of pay) for any overtime worked."
If Henwood has apologized for smearing this venerable organization I have yet to discover any evidence. 

Henwood's attitude is described pretty well by this passage in Michelle Goldberg's piece in Slate, Men Explain Hillary to Me:
Of course, people of good faith are going to disagree about individual examples of sexism. What’s immensely frustrating, however, is to realize how many ostensibly enlightened men think that gender can ever be totally disaggregated from Clinton’s efforts to become the first female president. They seem to believe that their class politics exempt them from taking sexism seriously. They certainly don’t care about female leadership.

I guess this shouldn’t come as a surprise; as long as feminism has existed, left-wing men have dismissed it as a bourgeois triviality. Now we know how little things have changed. For that, at least, we can thank these men for educating us.
Goldberg  doesn't mention Henwood by name, but Sady Doyle (whom I've admired for a long time) does in her piece in  Global Comment Hating Hillary: The One Thing Left and Right Men Can Agree On:

You know Hillary-hate. You’ve seen it before: It’s Tucker Carlson proclaiming that “when she comes on television, I involuntarily cross my legs.” It’s Chris Matthews scolding Clinton, when she criticized Bush’s homeland security spending in 2005, by saying that “you look more witchy when you’re doing it like this.” It is sainted progressive icon Jon Stewart getting huge laughs, off a shot of Clinton smiling politely, with the line “that look is where boners go to die.”
And it goes on, and gets worse, until Hillary is not just portrayed as an ugly, mean old lady these dudes don’t want to fuck, but as an actual monster. Hillary-hate is the fact that, while Clinton was grieving the suicide of her friend Vince Foster, Republicans spread rumors that she had seduced and murdered him. Hillary-hate is Maureen Dowd calling Clinton “Godzilla” and “Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction.” Hillary-hate is the not-remotely-subtle implication that Clinton abuses her husband, spread by the New York Post; next to a photo of Clinton with her mouth wide open at a Benghazi hearing, they ran the headline “NO WONDER BILL’S AFRAID.” Hillary-hate is the persistent, bizarre need for major media outlets to go along with Dowd’s calling Clinton the “50-Foot Woman” and to make Clinton look scary by portraying her as superhumanly huge: On the cover of TIME as a rampaging, pantsuited giantess the size of a skyscraper (photographed in the act of stepping on a powerless man, of course) or on the cover of the New York Times Magazine as some sort of Lovecraftian elder God the size of a planet.
Hillary-hate is Nation contributing editor Doug Henwood, greeting Clinton’s candidacy, this time around, with a book cover in which she is portrayed as a murderer aiming a gunat either (a) you, the reader, (b) the Democratic party, or quite possibly (c) Democracy itself.
Henwood turned out to be my breaking point, for this particular hate-wave. He provided the moment when I found out what happens on the other side of dread; when the anxiety of my internal monologue (they’re going to do it to her again; they’re going to do it to her again; they’re doing it to her again) broke, and clarified.
I don’t care if I have to end my career, end my friendships, or end my life with a Twitter-fight-induced heart attack, is what I thought, on the other side of fear. If there is anything I can do about this, they will not get away with doing it again.

Doug Henwood, as thin-skinned as they come, of course  has to jump on to attack Doyle:

She has no idea what Henwood thinks of Clinton if she's incapable of Googling "Henwood" and "Hillary" and finding the article in Harpers, mentioned by Lyons, entitled: Stop Hillary!

Amber A'Lee Frost also attacked Doyle in the Baffler in a piece meant primarily to hype the forthcoming hate-Hillary books of her good friends Henwood and Featherstone:
That so many established feminists appear to favor one exceptionally rich and powerful woman over the millions of women in dire need—many struggling as a direct result of horrifying policies of Bill’s that Hillary still supports to this day—is alarming to me. Sady Doyle, a self­-identified socialist who supports Clinton nonetheless, says that “the gendered nastiness coming unilaterally from Sanders’s camp doesn’t make me feel I can vote for him in any scenario.”
Established feminists are favoring Clinton as a presidential candidate. And I'm sure you could easily dig up objectionable actions on any other candidate, even Saint Bernie Sanders. 

My first and last personal run-in with Frost was on a Facebook comment thread on a post of Cory Robin.  I used the term "running dog" as a jocular reference to the Chinese hyperbole "running dogs of imperialism" which has been used by plenty of other writers. In the context I was referring to the fact that every time Paul Krugman would reference Robin's work favorably - which he does fairly often - his friends would be like: "Congratulations for the shout-out Corey, and BTW Krugman is a running dog of capitalism and a big poopie-head." I paraphrase, but that's the general gist. Far-lefties hate Krugman possibly even more than they hate the Clintons.

In any case, Frost accused me of calling her a dog when I used that phrase. She was apparently completely unfamiliar with its origins. Which wouldn't be remarkable except that she writes about politics all the time.

Robin de-friended me for my mutually-insulting exchange with Frost - but Frost is part of the far-left crew he runs with so fairness doesn't matter.  The whole pack of them hate "bourgeois" feminists like Clinton and Sheryl Sandberg because most of them come from money and they idealize the working class as only people who have come from money and  have spent virtually their entire careers as writers and have actually never had to work among them can do.

Henwood speaks for many Sanders supporters in his utter hatred for Clinton. But they tend to be idealist extremists anyway - one thing that offends the far left about politicians is that they have to make compromises and deal with actual power and serious enemies, not spend their time floating ideas and critiques in The Nation and Harpers. They believe that Sanders would not compromise on anything ever. And if they can't have their perfect ideal father-figure president, they'd rather have a Republican. Shane Ryan in Salon says that -  Just let the Republicans win: maybe things need to get really bad before America wakes up A GOP victory would bring disaster. Perhaps that's necessary to destroy their credibility -- and wake up Democrats.

Marxist types prefer this crisis approach to politics in the belief that if we try to make things better for the poor and downtrodden in a capitalist system, we are only delaying the inevitable revolution that will bring about the glorious proletariat paradise. And if Republicans were in charge and say, destroy abortion rights, well, that's a sacrifice worth making to the men of the Left since eventually the workers will restore those rights, after the revolution.

The Right invented the meme that the Clintons are exceptionally dishonest, and just as Doug Henwood makes common cause with Dick Morris to attack Clinton, Ryan parrots that talking point:
on how she’s not just dishonest — a description that applies to even the best politicians — but strikingly dishonest …
It's unfortunate for Sanders supporters that the editor of Politifact recently presented empirical evidence that in fact both Clintons are slightly more honest in their public statements than Bernie Sanders:

But you'll never get Sanders fans to admit this is a possibility. They know what they know about that dishonest Hillary Clinton and data does not interest them.

The fact that Henwood keeps pushing right-wing lies about Whitewater is all you really need to know about far-left's attitude towards Clinton. As Media Matters for America notes:
Henwood's explanation for why Whitewater still mattered centered on his claim that Clinton "lied" about billing records and how much time she spent as a lawyer working for a bank connected to the deal. Again, the public record fully corroborates what Clinton has said about this. 

And as Sady Doyle said when I mentioned this to her via Twitter:

Henwood just can't stand "bourgeois feminists." What kind of feminists are not bourgeois? I guess his wife. Amber A'Lee Frost. Norma Rae. Rosy the Riveter. Women in the third world. He hates Sheryl Sandberg as much as he hates Clinton. In fact it was when I pointed out to him that Katha Pollitt had written a defense of Sandberg that he got really mad at me. As Pollitt said:
 Much of what she says struck me as applicable to many women I know, including myself. How many conversations have I had with young women writers covering just this terrain: Will they think you’re vain and grabby if you ask for more money? How can you hold your own in a crowd of hyper-aggressive male writers all furiously promoting themselves? That thing about sitting in the corner doing your good work and assuming it will be rewarded because that’s what happened in school? Fear of stretching yourself, of taking risks? Sigh. By the time I finished the book, my life looked like a blighted wasteland of missed opportunities.
I think this is what hits close to home for Henwood. As long as women around him are content to act as his cheerleaders he's fine with them - let them start asking for power, before the glorious workers revolution has been accomplished, and look out. Henwood doesn't want you leaning in, you bourgeois feminist.

And although Henwood thinks Clinton is too close to Wall Street, as this superb piece in the New Yorker by Gary Sernovitz, Clinton's approach to Wall Street is likely to be more effective than that of Sanders:
Clinton’s beyond-the-banks rhetoric, in the op-ed and in the debate itself, is meant to position her as tougher on the finance industry than Sanders, a move that is hard for her to make convincingly—one has the sense that Sanders would strip every last cufflink off every investment banker, if he could. If you agree with the Democrats that Wall Street should be reformed, though, Clinton’s more comprehensive solution better grasps the world of finance today. Not only are Sanders’s bogeybanks just one part of Wall Street but they are getting less powerful and less problematic by the year. “It ain’t complicated,” Sanders said during the debate. But Clinton is right: it is.
To critics, the Problem with Wall Street can be separated into five distinct problems: the Wall Street rich are strangling democracy with money and clout; Wall Street’s inherent recklessness will imperil the economy again as it did in 2008, especially if its financial institutions are “too big to fail”; Wall Street speculators are a parasite on the real economy; Wall Streeters don’t pay their fair share of taxes; and their super-salaries are a shocking offense against fairness in an era of acute income equality. (I work on Wall Street, in private equity, and while I don’t think that I earn a super-salary, I also know there’s no way to justify how much I make relative to a nurse.) 
Sanders would almost certainly agree that these are problems. He’d probably add a few more just to make his point. (In the debate, he said that Wall Street’s “business model is fraud and greed.”) Yet his answers seem to consist of a broad personal solution and a narrow policy solution. The main way that Sanders would counter Wall Street power is Bernie Sanders, in all his lovably crotchety, Wall Street-donation-denying, incorruptible Bernieness. But when Sanders discusses how this would happen in policy terms he demonstrates an obsessive focus on breaking up the six largest U.S. banks and re√ęstablishing Glass-Steagall. His Web site, too, is a hedgehog where Wall Street is concerned, burrowing deeply into his big idea of a big-bank breakup. 
Clinton’s fox-like, forty-eight-hundred-word plan for smaller, wider reforms contains so many details that it’s impossible not to quibble with some of them. But their breadth and diversity capture Wall Street’s diffuseness and variability. In finance, there is a divide between the “sell side,” the banks selling financial advice and services, and the “buy side,” the thousands of asset managers—mainly hedge funds, private-equity funds, venture-capital firms, and mutual funds—that sometimes use the sell side’s services to invest money. And if there is a central story of Wall Street since the nineteen-nineties, it has been the stagnation of the sell side and the rise of the buy side, because of technology, regulation, and new profit opportunities.
But for the extremists like Henwood, the only thing that is emotionally satisfying here - and that's what is most important to Henwood - would be for Sanders to take their cufflinks too. That's how extremists operate - black or white, all or nothing, saints vs. witches. And that's why they're as dangerous as any other fundamentalists.