Thursday, October 2, 2014

Feminists and right-wing nuts two peas in a pod

I happened to be conducting business at a Laundromat recently, and naturally the proprietor had to turn the television on to a morning show, because gossip-mongering  is apparently what the usual clientele prefer to watch. Fortunately, I came in early enough to “miss” those “Will a lie detector machine prove that my husband is sleeping with my aunt who lives in New Jersey” and “Will a DNA test show that my boyfriend’s grandmother is the mother of our child, and not me?” shows. 

No, I had to suffer Geena Davis, who is an actress with a couple of film credits worthy of afterthought, mainly because of their gender politics (Thelma and Louise, A League of Their Own), but otherwise is best known for her inflated ego and tendency to feminist hyperbole of the whiny sort. Years ago, I recall reading a letter she wrote to TIME magazine in response to some gender-related cover story; I wondered if the magazine printed it because she was a “celebrity,” or because they thought it would be an “amusing” to have an egotistical person expose herself as a raging lunatic who should have reread and edited her disordered rant before she mailed it off (or better yet, not mailed it at all). It kind of made it a relief that her “Commander in Chief” was only just a low-rated TV show that disappeared after one season (thankfully not enough for syndication). 

Anyways, Davis was hitting the morning shows with a new “study” she personally conducted with her own “research.” It seems that she believed that films today have few female characters who serve as “role models” for girls, and naturally she set out to prove the point. Of course, most people prefer to watch television than spend money going to the movie theater, but if you are trying to make a political point, why “study” a medium that would disprove your preconceived expectation?

Not surprisingly, Davis’ “research” confirmed her “suspicions”: That women in certain professional occupations—such as professors, doctors and engineers—were more likely to be portrayed as men. Of course in real life this is also the case, but that’s not the point; women need “role models,” and movies need to recognize this “need” and be politically more “proactive.” Of course, what Davis is really complaining about is the fact that she can’t find enough “suitable” roles for her to play in order to serve her inflated self-image.

But trying to shoehorn unreality into one’s own idea of what “reality” ought to be doesn’t actually make it so. And the really discomfiting is the reality that Davis is not a “professor,” or a “doctor,” or an “engineer.” She is just an actress who likes to play pretend. If she really wants to be a “role model,” she could be any one of those things in “real life.” But then again, if she did, she wouldn’t be an insufferably self-righteous actress with no credibility.

But that wasn’t the only thing that I found “bothersome” on the television screen. Bill O’Reilly of Fox News was pitching his latest “killing” book, Killing Patton, following on the heels of Killing Jesus, Killing Kennedy and Killing Lincoln, and apparently has another in the works. The conspiratorial nature of these books—and their tendency to relish revealing juvenile bathroom-type personal details—naturally makes one suspicious about what goes on in the mind of your typical right-wing ideologue. 

There have been a few theories about the death of Patton that stray past the known facts—that following a low-speed collision between the vehicle he was riding in and a military truck, Patton’s head whiplashed against a glass partition, causing damage to two vertebrae, a broken his neck and suffered permanent paralysis. Far from being “careless” with the patient, the top neurosurgeons from both the U.S. and Britain were flown in to save Patton’s life. That he would subsequently die from a blood clot in the lungs and heart failure was not an unexpected development, and Patton himself seemed to realize this near the end. 

But that hasn’t stopped the gossip and rumor mongers. In fact, O’Reilly’s tome is little more than a salacious rewrite of Robert Wilcox’s Target: Patton, which “suggested” that soldier Douglas Bazata, on the orders of OSS head Gen. “Wild Bill” Donovan ordered—or rather “suggested”—that the marksman assassinate Patton by staging an “accident” by shooting him in the neck. This having failed to kill him immediately, Russian intelligence finished the job by poisoning him, apparently because they were in secret “collusion” with the U.S. officials because of their “expertise” in this sort of thing. 

There was also a “question” of the light damage to Patton’s car, and the “mysterious” disappearance of various investigative  documents. One claim that O’Reilly made was that there was “no way” there could be an “accident” on the road that Patton was driving on, yet he ignores the fact that the truck traveling in the opposite direction had turned in directly in front of the car without giving a proper turn signal (of course the driver of the truck could have been in on the “murder plot”).

But most of these conspiracy theories have already been debunked. Bazata’s memory of details was so scant that even Wilcox was forced to concede that he could only “conjecture” on the assassination angle; it was also known that Bazata was a bit of a kook and in desperate need of money at the time of his “revelation.” Bazata in fact could not possibly have known of the route Patton was taking, because that detail had been determined “on the fly” only minutes before.

 There is also no supporting evidence for the preposterous theory that the Russians wanted to kill Patton; in fact, Stalin admired Patton, and even if Patton wanted to continue to fight the Russians, he had no resources (let alone an Army to command) or political or public support for any such continuation of the war. The suggestion that he would go on a speaking tour and rile up the public against the Russians to start a war was farfetched; after all, the British had voted the party of war hero Winston Churchill out of power, and although he spent his time warning the world about the “Iron Curtain” over Eastern Europe, no European war was ever contemplated based on such rhetoric. 

The so-called “disappearance” of relevant documents is explained by the fact that some “missing” documents were actually on file but referred to under a different title by another source, others were never made or simply never existed, and still others that were merely referred to as informal “investigations” that might have only consisted of a memo or the initiative of a friend. Patton himself refused to allow an investigation of the two Army drivers involved, out of a sense of empathy toward the soldiers. Much was also made of the fact that no autopsy was performed; yet autopsies are usually only performed when the cause of death is unknown and possibly by foul play, and in Patton’s case the cause was known.

Like O’Reilly’s other three Killing books, this one seems to spend a lot more time regurgitating “facts” that have nothing to do with the “point” of the book—or rather, engaging in factual errors that suggests that he and his co-writer Martin Dugard did sloppy research, if they did research at all. In fact, three of these books are apparently so poorly researched—merely repeating “conspiracy” theories already discussed and repudiated—that they are essentially worthless, save to O’Reilly’s fan base. Interestingly, the one tome here that actually refutes conspiracy is the Kennedy book; the Warren Report is accepted whole hog. Why is this? Because to do otherwise would suggest that plotters with a right-wing agenda were involved? Can’t have that as a selling point, because it would ruin O’Reilly’s “credibility.” “Reviewers” like Sen. John McCain should take note.

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