The past few days have been truly bizarre in the depressing extent to which the Supreme Court inspired people to incoherently and stupidly bemoan queer failings and betrayals and to grossly overstate the negative impact of same sex marriage. This is the latest outbreak of a disease afflicting the internet left, and while I still don’t wish to address it in comprehensive terms, I do want to close up shop on Joe Catron, who is simply emblematic of the bigger problem.
Catron is in his own special class of disingenuous, lying, reactionary prick, so congrats to him for forcing a break in the ice. All by himself, he is a problem — as vicious and divisive as a provocateur — but he’s not the problem. Where the problem is concerned, he certainly makes a good case study in his shamelessly dishonest use of bastardized cultural appropriation theory to maliciously set people against each other. He’s also clearly adept at performative bad faith, where an almost showy disingenuousness is part of the stigmatizing game.
His argument for blaming “white gay people” and turning the Outrage Machine loose on them for a comic they had nothing to do with is shamelessly shabby: A few gay people — who he was unwilling to point to when pressed — RT’d it. But the shabbiness of his argument is simply another way of telegraphing his contempt and status.
Between a conversation with me and one with Glenn Greenwald, it became clear why he thinks it’s perfectly fine to lie and invoke bad theory to stigmatize gay people: he sees queer social inequality as a thoroughly trivial matter except as a multiplier for a real problem, like racism. This is another thing we see a lot these days: The presumption that white queers, particularly men, are largely insulated from the pernicious effects of social inequality, which are presumed to be, by themselves, fairly minor anyway.
Catron’s first engagement with me came two days after my post, during a discussion of the episode into which he’d been tagged:
How tiresome the use of this truly idiotic Park Slope thing is, which apparently signifies my vast wealth, and would be argumentatively meaningless even if it weren’t completely made up. But Catron’s use here at least hints at why so many people invoke this with me, sometimes with dog whistles like “effete.” Abundant wealth is part of the Gay White Male caricature, which I’m guessing is what neutralizes any reluctance lefty non-homos might have to hector, talk down to, and even be blatantly homophobic with us.
Indeed, the Gay White Male casts an increasingly long shadow over all queer-related discussion in this realm. He’s even a meme. At first glance he looks like a proxy for his straight counterpart, but on inspection he is uniquely more prone to racism, selfishness, transphobia, misogyny, and conformity, as well as stereotypical consumerism and superficiality. He maintains an iron grip on queer institutions and politics for the sake of pursuing his own narrow interests. When he’s not shopping, gentrifying neighborhoods, choosing china patterns, excluding trans people or insulting Black women, this monster is cutting deals with neoliberalism and derailing everyone else’s work toward true liberation. Dishonest beatdowns in unadorned bad faith is the least this character deserves!
I shouldn’t have to temper that with a dose of reality, so I won’t, except to say that I told Catron that I had been assaulted for being queer. Which elicited this:
Imagine this reaction to a similar disclosure by a victim of any other hate crime. I’m saying that because, based on the way things have been going, I doubt that this level of nastiness would strike anyone as particularly awful without a substitution analysis, and even then, maybe not. Is substitution analysis still outside the ever widening net of vulgarized cultural appropriation theory? I’d sure hate to erase anyone else’s assault by comparing it to my own.
Our conversation was much longer than it needed to be, with Catron making fast and loose with the “pampered little nitwit”s and the “the angry rich kid”s and “Park Slope anarchist”s, never ever dealing with my insistence that he misrepresented the comic to promote animus against gay people.
Not one to leave any Asshole stone unturned, he went all Dadly after we’d finished:
Oh Father dear, how I wish I were the rich, exceedingly young blade of your and so very many imaginations! But sadly, my contempt is not youthful folly. I dislike you because you’re an asshole.
Somewhat later, an uncharacteristically mild-mannered Glenn Greenwald took this up, eliciting less invective but not much else :
I love the “what you may delicately call ‘known gay’ sources” even though I have no idea what the fuck he’s insinuating. What would Catron indelicately call them, I wonder.
Twitter search is not definitive, but a search of the link to Liniers original post suggests that all the tweets in English from the very beginning were admonishments remarkably like Catron’s. He told Greenwald that his known gay sources deleted all connection once they sensed the beatdown machine’s disapproval. I would bet all of my vast Gay White wealth that this is a lie, but it’s also beside the point. A smattering of “known gay sources” so small that it can disappear with nary a trace, is not sufficient grounds for singling out “gay white people” for an alleged theft of an iconic moment in Black history. But Catron breezes right past this on his high horse:
Later, Catron suggests Greenwald shouldn’t assume anything about Catron himself. Though if it’s a secret between Catron, the NSA and his bedroom walls, he is particularly unqualified to tell gay people how not oppressed they are, though it could explain why he’s so belligerently inclined to.
Others joined in and Catron kept to the trail blazed for white proxies of POC by Tim Wise, where colonized people are entirely authoritative when they agree, and as inconsequential as anyone else when they don’t. Observe:
With that, I’m way past sick of this guy and a whole lot of others. But I wanted an end to this story and this is it. I recommend checking out what Liniers has said about the fracas on his timeline. He took down the comic, but refuses to apologize for it. He’s not won over to the merits of Balkanized human rights struggles. I can’t imagine why not.