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May 31, 2006


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Bernard Guerrero

Yeah, right, like some "New Politics" weeny was gonna beat Ike in the middle of a boom, commentary on gender-bending or no. :^)

Small factual correction (I think): He appears to have flunked out of Harvard Law and graduated from Northwestern. Not that there's anything wrong with that. On either count.


Dude. I knew you were going to say something like that, and then add a smiley. Remember, the Jobot lurks within all of us.

Should candidates be slandered because they wouldn't be able to win anyway? Of course not. That's crazy talk!

But Winchell's comment was the tip of the iceberg in an extensive homophobic whispering campaign against Stevenson that -- as you point out -- was almost certainly unnecessary.

The question is, why was it done? And I think the answer is, because it could be.

The problem still dogs us. The solution, I think, would be to de-incentivize the process. I have some tentative ideas.

(I'll take out the error. Damn late night posting from memory. As usual, the truth is more interesting.)

Bernard Guerrero

"Remember, the Jobot lurks within all of us."

Low blow. :^)

"The question is, why was it done? And I think the answer is, because it could be."

Sounds about right.

"The problem still dogs us."

Whispering campaigns, or homophobic whispering campaigns? If the former, I think you're fighting against human nature. If specifically the latter, you're talking about eliminating homophobia. I'd think the actuarial tables are your best bet. Like Fidel, this too shall pass.....


"Human nature" is an ill-defined, almost meaningless term. It would, of course, be crazy to suggest that human behavior cannot be changed. It would also be crazy to suggest that human behavior is infinitely pliable. Fortunately, Carlos has suggested neither, and so the non-sequiturs can be dispensed with.

Carlos, I am very curious to see your tentative proposals as to how society can reduce the incentives to engage in unwarranted and scurrilous rumor-mongering during political campaigns. More, please!

Doug M.

Winchell now appears as a pioneer. It's remembered that he recklessly mashed together the worlds of entertainment and politics, approaching the latter with the breathless, gossip-mongering sensibility of the former. What's less well remembered is that he started as a vaudevillian. That's where he got the staccato voice, high speed delivery, and general flair for showmanship.

The other interesting thing about Winchell is, the Brain Eater got him. He had the classic career arc of the American success-tragedy: heroic young reporter tackling the likes of Henry Ford and Senator Bilbo --> middle-aged celebrity, rich and famous, using his power with increasing arrogance and malice --> sad, aging, lonely old crank. As with Joe McCarthy, you can't contemplate the man's later years without feeling pity for him. Unlike McCarthy, Winchell actually did some good in this world, at least in his early years. So it's really quite sad.

Bernard: Stevenson went back to law school after a chat with Oliver Wendell Holmes got him interested in the law again! That's just great.

Carlos, Stevenson seems to have been something of a playa. But Winchell (AFAIK) never went after him for that. So, maybe one point for the good old days.

Doug M.


Doug, that's sort of like, "I won't bring up the candidate's history of prescription drug abuse, but I will tell everyone he has Negro blood." Is this actually better?

(And by the pop psychology of the time, people could look at Stevenson's mild-mannered Don Juan-ism and go, yup, over-compensating. The original source of the gay rumor seems to have been his embittered ex-wife.)

Anyway, a reason it didn't further escalate seems to be that the Democrats had written documentation from General Marshall about Eisenhower's wish to divorce Mamie and marry his secretary.

Why are people nostalgic for this era again?


Bernard, it wasn't too long ago that arguments in favor of homophobia were based on appeals to human nature. Like, you know, this morning.

Noel, the old liberal idea used to be that self-policing on the part of journalists would take care of the problem.


It can be done, and it's certainly not against human nature; think of the "blue wall" of silence that surrounds police brutality cases even among good cops.

But here, the benefits -- the 'fun' -- that accrue to defectors becomes too high, and overwhelms any group censure.

And at any rate, group censure depends on the standards of the group. It's rather scary when a black comedy about high school cliques, Heathers [1], has become a commonly understood shorthand for our press corps.

So I don't think self-policing is a long-term solution.

[1] Everyone in our generation knows that after Heathers, there was Columbine.

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