10. Dunhamania! Culture war, as we call the unpleasant ruckus that ensues when political obsessives blunder among the muses, had another big year, with conservatives shaking their fists at everything from opera to comic books. Rather than survey all these cases, let’s focus on the instructive example of the one cultural artifact that seems most reliably to excite them: That marketing phenomenon known as Lena Dunham.
Conservatives first developed a hard-on for the Girls auteur during the 2012 Presidential campaign, when she made a pro-Obama ad, and they have yet to detumesce. The brethren hate other entertainment professionals, of course, but Dunham pulls so many of their triggers — she’s liberal, she’s a tattooed hipster, she has the nerve to act sexy despite not having a nice build like Ann Coulter — that she has remained their #1 groovy hate fuck, the Jane Fonda of the Obama age, at whom they rage for her sexuality as well as her politics.
This reached critical mass late in the year when Dunham released a celebrity memoir containing (as tell-all tradition demands) salacious details, including the news that, when Dunham was seven, she looked inside her one-year-old sister Grace’s vagina and found she had stuffed pebbles in there. Truth Revolt reported that Dunham was seventeen years old at the time (later correcting this “typo”) under the headline “Lena Dunham Describes Sexually Abusing Her Little Sister.”
National Review’s Kevin D. Williamson dug in -- “Grace’s satisfaction with her prank suggest that Grace was expecting her older sister to go poking around in her genitals and inserted the pebbles in expectation of it… There is no non-horrific interpretation of this episode” -- even though he found the story “especially suspicious” — which just made it worse; imagine, lying in a celebrity memoir! When Dunham complained of this rough treatment — ensuring more press — the investigators of her celebrity memoir high-fived each other. “Lena Dunham is learning the power of the right,” gurgled Don Surber while strangling a pillow.
Then Breitbart.com investigated another Dunham story about a college Republican named Barry who took advantage of her, and found that -- get this! -- some details were not verifiable (“A longtime employee at the Oberlin library could not recall working with any student with a flamboyant mustache”). A guy from Dunham’s college claimed the memoir defamed him because his name is Barry, too. “Sue the bastards,” cried professional scold Rod Dreher. “That’s the only way they will learn. Make the publisher withdraw the whole damn book…” The publisher instead agreed to add “a disclaimer that explains that the Barry described by Dunham was not really named Barry” and pay court costs, per Fox News.
There followed much popping of rightwing corks. "LENA DUNHAM WALKS BACK FABRICATED RAPE CLAIM" unh-unh-unhed John Hinderaker at Power Line. RedState called Dunham part of a “Rape Accusation-Industrial Complex” of women who habitually lie about sexual assault in order to advance a “victimization narrative.” The American Spectator’s Ross Kaminsky went further, tying the case to what he called the “lie” that Michael Brown didn’t deserve to be gunned down, and declaring that the “true motivation” of “too many” feminists is “hatred of men.” Ann Coulter added that Dunham, like all women who disclosed sexual assault after an interval, was just “trying to get attention.”
Despite their best efforts, or perhaps partly due to them, Dunham remains on the best seller list — without resorting to bulk sales to think tanks, imagine that! — and in the celebrity pantheon. Conservatives, for their part, maintain their place at the wrong side of a peephole, banging on the fence with one hand and doing God knows what with the other. Between the sexual rage, the rolling-out of big guns to prosecute a flimsy piece of pop-art crap, and the ultimate, flaccid ineffectuality of their efforts, could there be a more perfect example of culture war?
9. The right comes out for income inequality. The term is relatively new to common discourse, and in years past was mainly engaged by wingnut think-tankers to explain why such a thing didn’t exist. But Piketty’s big book and Obama’s mention of income inequality in his 2014 State of the Union led lumpen conservatives to modify their argument to: income inequality doesn’t exist, and so what if it does.
When rich guys complained the poor were giving them stink-eye, conservatives rushed to comfort them the best way they knew how: By associating their opponents with Nazis. At the Wall Street Journal, venture capitalist Tom Peters compared resentment of the rich to Kristallnacht; in the same venue, Ruth R. Wisse asked, “Two phenomena: anti-Semitism and American class conflict. Is there any connection between them?” and answered yes, because anti-Semites often complain about wealthy Jews, which makes any complaint against American oligarchs, despite the impressive number of goyim among them, a veritable Blood Libel.
Daniel Henninger (also at WSJ — these guys know their audience!) suggested that Putin was getting belligerent because he “surely noticed” that “the nations of the civilized world have decided their most pressing concern is income inequality,” and were too busy coddling paupers to trouble with the Ukraine. Ace of Spades protested the real problem was “social inequality” — that is, the alleged contempt of Democrats for rich people who are rightwing and folksy, such as the Palins or the Duck Dynasty guys.
And forget about trying to level the field with a higher minimum wage — that’s socialism. If you asked why the current minimum wage isn't already socialism, the brighter bulbs would tell you, you’re right, it is — let’s get rid of it altogether! Libertarian Virginia Postrel wept over all the folks out there with multiple jobs — not because they had the work multiple jobs, but because “employers can’t offer, and workers can’t take, lower wages in exchange for better hours. The minimum wage sets a legal floor.” The injustice of it! In fact, if you complained about getting your tiny wages ripped off by your boss, that too was socialism, or at least rather petty of you.
The simplest pro-inequality argument was advanced by Ben Domenech, who attributed any concerns over the ginormous 99%-1% gap to “jealousy… in real life, the money doesn’t stay in Scrooge McDuck’s vault, it goes into investments which pay more people to do more things.” Scrooge McDuck may someday build a condo, and you may get to clean its hallways, which along with your others job(s) may permit you to rent a hovel. Now stop complaining, anti-Richite!
8. Conservatives fall in love with Vladimir Putin. When Putin muscled Ukraine in March, very few conservatives called for the U.S. to intervene militarily. Nonetheless they blamed the Commander in Chief because, in the words of Rand Paul, he “hasn't projected enough strength and hasn't shown a priority to the national defense” — that is, he hadn’t rattled a saber that no one expected or wanted him to unsheathe.
But never mind those details -- the real issue for conservatives was less geopolitical than psychographic — rightwing pundits, however pencil-necked, worship butchness and reflexively attribute it to their heroes, such as former cheerleader George “he’s got two of ‘em” W. Bush, while portraying their opponents as sissies.
Judging from conservatives’ previous investigations of Obama’s wearing of mom jeans while pretend-shooting and bike-riding, not mention his unwillingness to punch down on the poor, clearly the President fits their definition of a sissy. But it’s hard to identify a domestic conservative with whose roughness they can creditably contrast Obama’s affect. Mike Huckabee? Newt Gingrich? Chris Christie, being a bully, might do, but he betrayed the brethren by accepting Federal help on Hurricane Sandy.
With such a weak bench, it was perhaps inevitable that conservatives would find a foreign dictator to embrace. Putin is ruthless, rugged, and hates homosexuals — really, their dream candidate if they could get the citizenship thing sorted. They’d been contrasting bare-chested manly man Putin with metrosexual Obama on flimsy pretexts for years (“IT LOOKS LIKE OBAMA IS PUTIN'S BITCH,” etc), but Ukraine really brought it out of them. They were especially fond of funny pictures, but employed wordcraft, too, e.g. “Putin Treating Obama Like Half a Fag.”
Putin received perhaps his most eminent conservative blessing from Sarah Palin, who sneered at Obama as “as one who wears Mom jeans and equivocates and bloviates” and sighed over Putin as “one who wrestles bears and drills for oil.” But the most grandiloquent paean may have been that of National Review’s Victor Davis Hanson, who found “value for us” — meaning for the American People, I guess — in “Putin’s confidence in his unabashedly thuggish means, the brutal fashion in which a modern state so unapologetically embraces the premodern mind to go after its critics… Putin speaks power to truth — an unpredictable, unapologetic brute force of nature.” Hanson did put in some mild admissions that Putin was not really a role model, in much the same way that the Shangri-Las told us their guy was good-bad, but he's not evil.
Months later, with the ruble crashing, Putin’s cowboy diplomacy doesn’t look like such a winner, and Obama’s restraint looks rather better. Since Kim Jong Un doesn’t look so hot with his shirt off, conservatives may have to wait for a coup to rekindle their dictator-love.