Cartoon: Meet My Liberal Beliefs


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There are a number of self-identified liberal or centrist democratic pundits who spend virtually all their time attacking the left – attacking Black Lives Matter, attacking so-called “SJW” “left identitarians” and so on – but who, when they’re referred to as conservatives, will say that’s completely unfair because they’re pro-choice and they plan to vote for Biden and so on.

But that’s the only time they bring these things up. They never publish an op-ed or even argue on social media in favor of reproductive rights; they just bring it up as a credential to better position themselves to attack the left.

They have a right to focus on whatever they want. No one has time to write about every worthy issue in the world. But I’m not criticizing them for not defending (for example) choice; I’m criticizing them for not defending choice while repeatedly using their pro-choice views as a credential.

It’s hard to take the “I’m pro-choice, so I have credibility when I say feminists are evil” mantra seriously when saying that appears to be the entire extent of their (public) commitment to reproductive rights.

And the same for their commitment to gay rights, to environmentalism, to anti-racism, and so on. For public figures like pundits, they don’t deserve credit for liberal positions they’ve virtually never argued for or defended. And they certainly shouldn’t be allowed to use their nonexistent support of liberal positions opportunistically to bolster their attacks on the left.

(I swiped some of the phrasing above from this 2016 blog post I wrote. So this has been on my mind a while!)


This was fun for me to draw. I got to draw a superhero! That doesn’t come up often for me. The thing I worked hardest on here was drawing the superhero’s face – that handsome square-jawed thing isn’t my usual style. I ended up having to flip the drawing left-to-right and redraw it from there (that’s an old cartoonist’s trick; flipping a drawing like that can make errors apparent that you’d failed to notice).

I also used a different font than my usual. I absolutely love the font I usually use, Moritat. Moritat is legible and tidy and super-energetic all at once.  But Moritat is an all-caps font, so you can’t really Capitalize Words. And I really wanted to be able to capitalize the first letters in “My Liberal Beliefs,” as if it were a name. So I went with J Scott Campbell, another font I like (I use it to letter “SuperButch”). Both fonts are made by Comicraft.

Wow, I bet that last paragraph bored everyone reading this who isn’t a cartoonist!


TRANSCRIPT OF CARTOON

This cartoon has four panels, plus a small “kicker” panel under the bottom of the comic strip.

PANEL 1

We’re in a hilly park or field. Two people appear to be having an argument. One is a brown-skinned woman with black hair, with a couple of pink streaks running through it.  She’s wearing a white tank top with broad blue strips on it. Let’s call her PINKY. The other person is a white man wearing a white tee shirt with a “!” design on it. He has fluffy brown hair and a full beard. Let’s call him BEARDO.

Pinky is looking angry and pointing a critical finger at Beardo. Beardo is looking angry, too, and is making a big “I’m frustrated” arm gesture.

BEARDO: It’s illibral to accuse people of “racism.” Where’s due process? Where’s freedom of speech?

PINKY: I’m so tired of that right-wing —

PANEL 2

Pinky jumps back in alarm, while Beardo talks on cheerfully. Between them, a superhero has appeared in a puff of smoke (there’s a “poof” sound effect). The superhero is wearing a tight blue outfit, with boots and a cape and a shield-shaped symbol on his chest that says “MLB.” He is standing in with his hands on his hips and his chest thrust up a bit. His expression is happy but also smug.

PINKY: Whoa! Where’d HE come from?

BEARDO: This is My Liberal Beliefs. He suddenly appears and protects me when I’m accused of being right-wing.

PANEL 3

There is a close-up of a bunch of political logo pins, pined to My Liberal Beliefs’ chest. We can see Beardo’s hand as he points at the pins. There are five pins, and here’s what they say:

“Pro Choice until I decide it’s gone too far”

“I will probably VOTE democrat.”

“I fight for FREE SPEECH of wealthy pundits s who are very like myself.”

“Gay Marriage Yay!”

“If I had been around back then I’m sure I would have marched with MLK.”

BEARDO: Just LOOK at all My Liberal Beliefs! How could I possibly be right-wing?

PANEL 4

Pinky looks a little annoyed, while Beardo, who has his arms folded across his chest, looks quite cheerful. In between them, My Liberal Beliefs has disappeared, leaving a “poof cloud” in the air behind him.

PINKY: So do Your Liberal Beliefs ever speak aloud?

BEARDO: That’s not what they’re for.

SMALL KICKER PANEL UNDER THE BOTTOM OF THE CARTOON

Beardo, looking a bit angry, is talking to Barry the cartoonist.

BEARDO: So if virtually every public argument I make is attacking the left, THAT makes me right-wing?

BARRY: Only literally.

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36 Responses to Cartoon: Meet My Liberal Beliefs

  1. 1
    LTL FTC says:

    This is just “no enemies to the left” by a different name, no?

    If not, what is the ratio of criticisms of left excess and criticisms of the right before you start becoming suspect? 1:4? 1:10?

  2. 2
    Corso says:

    So what is a character like this called? If someone is pro-choice, pro-lgbt rights, a free speech advocate (even with the asterisk), and will vote Democrat, it seems odd to call them right wing.

    Heck, this comic is almost custom tailored for me. I’m also firmly against the war on drugs, and think that the American justice system needs a deep scrubbing reform from the bottom up.

    But I also think that BLM as a movement has a whole lot of semantic overload I just can’t get behind, I’m sick of people calling everything they don’t like a Nazi, and I would love a return to legislative normalcy, which I don’t blame Republicans for.

    What am I?

  3. 3
    Grace Annam says:

    Corso,

    I think it might benefit your understanding to read the buttons more closely.

    Grace

  4. 4
    Görkem says:

    Corso, you’re someone who is derailing this thread to try to make it all about you. Right wing, left wing or centrist, that is not cool.

  5. 5
    Ampersand says:

    Corso, I’m not going to get into a discussion of what you are. That’s the sort of discussion that blows up incredibly easily into flamewars, and that alone is reason enough to avoid it.

    But let’s talk about a hypothetical, not-Corso person who is anti-war-on-drugs, pro-justice-reform, pro-choice, pro-lgbt rights, Democrat. This hypothetical person is also very critical of BLM, of “identity studies,” and of “SJWs.”

    Could I tell you from that list if the person is a liberal or not? No, not really. That you seem to believe that the list alone should be enough to tell, suggests that you didn’t understand the point of this cartoon.

    If the person talks about and argues for the liberal position on all those liberal causes, about as often as they talk about their other opinions, then yes, I’d tend to call them a liberal with some heterodox views. Or perhaps a centrist Democrat. (Obviously, it depends on details and context that we can’t infer from this brief example.)

    However, if the person’s political activities and argumentation are overwhelmingly focused on their few right-wing views – anti-SJW, etc. – and their left-wing views are primarily brought up just to buttress their arguments (“…even I, a liberal, would say that BLM is terrible”) then I’d probably call them a conservative.

  6. 6
    Ampersand says:

    LTL, I don’t have a set ratio or anything like that.

    But no, I certainly don’t believe “no enemies to the left,” and don’t think that’s a fair interpretation of this cartoon.

  7. 7
    LTL FTC says:

    Amp: so when can someone know whether they have liberal beliefs after criticizing a left position they disagree with? If there is no magic ratio, what does it take in terms of criticizing the other to avoid transmogrifying into something other than what I identify?

    In other words, is this not “no enemies to the left” but instead Reagan’s 11th commandment with the ability to buy indulgences?

  8. 8
    Mookie says:

    pro-choice, pro-lgbt rights, a free speech advocate (even with the asterisk) […] against the war on drugs, and think that the American justice system needs a deep scrubbing reform from the bottom up.

    As Grace says, all these generalized phrases can and do have important distinctions, making them easy to memorize and then trot out as Amp’s right-winger does without ever defining what any of them mean and with such caveats and conditions. Calling takes liberal doesn’t make them so.

    As for your own list, class and economic considerations are curiously omitted.

    Also, plenty of right-wing Democrats out there, plenty liberals who don’t vote Democratic, so I don’t know why party is being brought into a discussion that has deliberately been set to avoid some of these plausible deniability tactics, where free speech isn’t the only slippery slogan subject to endless “asterisks.”

  9. 9
    Kate says:

    Right now, in 2020, in the U.S. and other western democracies, I basically see “the left” as a coalition of marginalized people fighting for their rights; and the right as a coalition of privileged people fighting to expand their dominance. So, what I’m looking for is, what do your public statements (I don’t care about your private thoughts and feeling) suggest is your goal in the aggregate? Are you primarily interested in fighting for the rights of marginalized people (left); expanding the rights of the already powerful (right); maintaining the status quo (center-right) or incremental change (center-left)?

  10. 10
    Kate says:

    and…maybe you’re interested in women’s rights, but not the rights of people of colour. Maybe someone is interested in BLM, but a misogynist. Maybe you’re a transphobic “feminist”.
    And…on the right maybe you’re a white feminist who benefits from your husband’s white male privilege. Maybe you’re a misogynist man of colour. You could be a log cabin Republican?
    To me, the difference is, at the end of the day, are you spending most of your time punching up, or punching down?

  11. 11
    JaneDoh says:

    I like this one – it is “I can’t be racist since I have a black friend” generalized and in cartoon form.

    Also, your superhero looks wonderfully smug.

  12. 12
    Corso says:

    @Amp

    But let’s talk about a hypothetical, not-Corso person who is anti-war-on-drugs, pro-justice-reform, pro-choice, pro-lgbt rights, Democrat. This hypothetical person is also very critical of BLM, of “identity studies,” and of “SJWs.”

    Could I tell you from that list if the person is a liberal or not? No, not really. That you seem to believe that the list alone should be enough to tell, suggests that you didn’t understand the point of this cartoon.

    I made an error in personalizing it, because I think my point got muddied, and I think that you thought I was getting defensive. I’m not offended, I’m curious. I tried to personalize the question because in my experience, very few people are actually as one-dimensional as party lines would like us to believe (TERFs generally don’t vote republican, even if they hold some really awful views, because Republicans still don’t have a good track record on women’s issues, as an example). I thought that might be helpful. I was wrong.

    To the quoted text, I didn’t say that the person was a Liberal. In fact, I didn’t give anyone a label. I did say that a pro-choice, pro-LGBT, Democrat-voter is a really odd combination for a “right-winger”. You, and other people who responded to me, referred to that character as a “Right Winger”, and I want to take a step back and look at that, because that means that the “Right-Wing” encapsulates both pro-choice and pro-life people, both homophobes and allies, both Democrats and Republicans. That might even be true, but at that point, what *does* differentiate a person on the left from a person on the right?

    I don’t know how to put this gently, so perhaps I won’t, but I’ll apologize for my bluntness: You seem to be confused as to what would make a person a liberal, but very certain of what makes a person a “right-winger”, and that doesn’t seem healthy.

    Edited to add:

    It makes sense to me, in a world that doesn’t often rigidly conform to party lines that political leanings be seen on a spectrum, probably with multiple vectors. And so someone might be more liberal or conservative in say… Monetary policy, or social policy, more authoritarian or libertarian in the size or scope of government, or more secular or faith-based as examples, and all of those spectrums probably toggle independently of each other, although some will tend to cluster.

    Comments like “Your professed liberal beliefs are irrelevant because you don’t profess them enough” or “Liberals don’t also believe X” or “You should spend more time attacking the right” hit me as a kind of purity test. It puts people in a position of having to prove their liberalness at risk of being categorized as someone outside that group, meanwhile, that other group, probably with their own purity tests, will almost certainly also reject them.

  13. 13
    Ampersand says:

    Costco Corso, suppose that Rush Limbaugh, tomorrow, announces he is now a liberal. He explains that he opposes racism (“I don’t even see color”), he thinks that women should be allowed to vote and work, and he favors free speech.

    But, other than buttressing some of his arguments by saying things like “As a liberal, I oppose abortion” and the like, he doesn’t change his advocacy at all. His views are the same, what he talks about is exactly the same.

    In your view, am I duty-bound to respect and acknowledge Rush as a liberal?

    Is there any point where I’m allowed to think someone’s claim to being a liberal might be opportunistic? Or do you think that, no matter the circumstances, it’s always wrong to think that?

    It puts people in a position of having to prove their liberalness at risk of being categorized as someone outside that group,

    Yes, and…?

    Everyone has a right to say “I’m a conservative” or whatever. I can start claiming that I’m a libertarian – after all, I do have some libertarian views (pro-choice, pro-free-speech, pro-drug-legalization, pro-decriminalizing sex work). As long as we have free speech, no one can stop me. But I don’t think other libertarians are, or should be, obligated to take me at my word, especially if in practice all they see of me is me arguing “libertarians are terrible for wanting to cut welfare, they must hate the poor” all day.

    Edited to add: But I don’t agree that it would put me “in a position of having to prove” that I’m a libertarian. I’m not obligated to prove anything at all, any more than libertarians are obligated to accept my word that I’m now a libertarian.

  14. 14
    Adrian says:

    Might the general name for such a person be something like a “Devil’s advocate?” If most of the arguments they make on the public realm seem to support conservative aims, yet they are liberal in their hearts?

  15. 15
    Adrian says:

    Might the general name for such a person be something like a “Devil’s advocate?” If most of the arguments they make on the public realm seem to support conservative aims, yet they are liberal in their hearts? (Conservatives opposing Black Lives Matter or MeToo or same-sex marriage would believe themselves to be on the side of the angels.)

  16. 16
    Corso says:

    @Amp

    Costco

    Damn you autocorrect! :P (That’s not a new one)

    Yes, and…?

    I think we agree that groups should be able to some extent to police their own membership, but are there limits to that? Who are the gatekeepers to Liberalism? And perhaps most importantly: What are the gates?

    Your Limbaugh example is an argument from the extreme, both in that it’s very unlikely to happen in the wild, and because even if it did, it amounts to nutpicking, most people don’t start fromt he extreme that Limbaugh represents, and I have doubts that the people that are would do a half-way enlightenment. Most people, I hope, sit on the slope of the scale pretty far removed from that.

    I want to also bring up that the second half of that quote of me was important:

    It puts people in a position of having to prove their liberalness at risk of being categorized as someone outside that group, meanwhile, that other group, probably with their own purity tests, will almost certainly also reject them.

    You aren’t just saying that Beardy isn’t in your club, you’re telling him what club he’s in, and that club might have its own set of gatekeepers. Again… you seem to be having a really hard time putting your finger on exactly what constitutes membership in your in group, but seem to have no problem identifying what makes a member of the out group.

  17. 17
    Petar says:

    To me, the difference is, at the end of the day, are you spending most of your time punching up, or punching down?

    Oh, that’s very easy to tell.

    Are you getting punched back, then slammed face first on the curb, and stomped on the back of your head?

    No?

    Then you are punching down.

    Punching up is an idiom invented by bullies who want to feel righteous about their bullying. They attack people who, on paper, are privileged, but in reality cannot really fight back. Sometimes, after a bit of investigation, it turns out that the righteous bullies have been attacking the oppressed the whole time (for example, check the main players in the RWA implosion) or the victim turns out really be privileged, and the bully ends up swallowing his teeth. (check all the times when rich people silenced their critics using the power of the courts.)

    To inflict harm, you need to have the upper hand, at least in a localized manner. When Oprah gets a wage slave fired because she refused to serve her after hours, it’s not punching up.

  18. 18
    Corso says:

    @17

    I like it. It’s not fully descriptive, but it gives words to a concept that I’ve always thought of, but never really played with: If you’re really punching up, then you’re either hoping you’re too small for the powerful person to notice, that the person you’re punching is benevolent, or you’re being dishonest, because if the powerful person notices you, and isn’t benevolent, that power means that they should be able to do something to make your life at least slightly miserable, and if they can’t, well…. They weren’t really that powerful, were they?

    This is going to be more extreme in places without robust checks and balances; Try punching up in China, Turkey, or Iran; Losing a few metaphorical teeth will be a pipe dream compared to the hell they’ll put you through.

    In America, and most of the rest of the first world, we have systems in place to ostensibly equalize the playing field, and while that isn’t always successful, in the cases where it is, even if the person you’re punching has more wealth than you, or some kind of privilege, your options are basically reduced to saying mean things at each other, and sometimes not even that. At that point, you aren’t really punching up. The best you can hope for is a lateral jab.

  19. 19
    Erl says:

    Petar,

    You write that “[unless] you [are] getting punched back, then slammed face first on the curb, and stomped on the back of your head . . . you are punching down.”

    And Corso agrees that a recipient of punching up “should be able to do something to make your life at least slightly miserable, and if they can’t, well…. They weren’t really that powerful, were they?

    But this is absurd.

    A proof by example: Donald Trump has a foolish hairstyle!

    Now, I’ve said it. Our little social cohort here might even agree with me. But Donald Trump is still the president of the US; he is wealthier than me, more powerful than me, more popular than me. He could have me ruined or killed. And my unkind remark about his hair doesn’t change that. The fact that I didn’t suffer those consequences immediately doesn’t reverse our power relations.

    There are lots of reasons why more powerful people don’t or can’t retaliate with their fullest force against critical remarks or unkind sayings. They might not be aware of them. The specific criticism might be unnoticeable against the background of commentary they receive, both negative and positive. They might benefit more from displaying or feigning indifference, magnanimity, superiority. They might be embedded in social structures that constrain their fullest retaliation, while still giving them vastly more power than their critics. For a fuller exploration of some of these questions, you can read the first section of this old Scott Alexander essay (n.b. it predates the Trump candidacy and so treats Trump as an archetypal shitty billionaire rather than an archetypal shitty president).

    Now, if one were to say “not everything claimed to be ‘punching up’ is in fact ‘punching up'”, of course that would be true.

    If one were to say, “hey, sometimes people claim to be ‘punching up’ when all they’re really doing is preaching to their local social group about a shared object of frustration, and so they pose as brave rebels when instead they’re hitting easy applause lines,” well, sure, that happens. Though these days anyone taking a stand in public is at real risk of their actions being relayed to their staunchest enemies.

    If one were to say “we should be clear-eyed about the multidimensionality of social power rather than collapsing it to a few famous axes of oppression” that would also be true—though these analyses are genuinely complicated, and not merely an excuse for jumping to the conclusion “any rich and famous person of color is not genuinely oppressed by racism”.

    But the argument that something cannot be “punching up” unless it draws an overwhelming act of repression is neither logically sound nor supported by the evidence. Instead, it’s just a specialist example of what you might call the “winner’s fallacy”—the idea that outcomes in any particular case can be used to retroactively define power relations at the beginning. But of course underdogs (in all sorts of senses) win things all the time. (Again, the Alexander blog above has more.)

  20. 20
    Grace Annam says:

    Corso:

    If you’re really punching up, then you’re either hoping you’re too small for the powerful person to notice, that the person you’re punching is benevolent, or you’re being dishonest…

    Or you feel powerless and don’t know what else to do, but can’t stomach doing nothing. Example: Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony before the US Congress.

    Or you’re just that angry. Example: so many, but let’s go with Syliva Rivera’s “Y’all Better Quiet Down” speech, in 1973.

    Many times, I have seen people do things which they would later admit were against their plainly-evident interests, because they could not find it in themselves, in that moment, to knuckle under. In other words, their need not to feel humiliated or powerless overrode their need take the rational next step.

    Sometimes you’re punching up because you want everyone to see what happens when you get punched in return. Example: MLK’s non-violent activism. He didn’t do it for the sake of the people with the dogs, batons, and fire hoses. He did it for the sake of the people who would be horrified by the people with the dogs, batons, and fire hoses.

    Sometimes you’re punching up because the risk of getting punched down is minimal, but by punching up helplessly you build solidarity with others in similar situations.

    Also, and separately, your analysis suggests a single power scale which is easily measured, when in fact there are many power scales, interrelated to greater and lesser degrees, with varying error bars for measurements of them.

    Grace

  21. 21
    Corso says:

    @20

    Hey Grace,

    You engaged with the point better than Erl@19 (who I think just needs to read what I wrote again, because he basically paraphrased and expanded on what I wrote), and you seem to understand the idea, and you seem to disagree with me, I’m just not sure where.

    Perhaps it’s in the MLK example: People that do things to provoke a response. People looking to get punched because being punched proves a point. That’s admittedly missing from my “Hoping to escape notice/ Hoping for inaction/ Dishonest” paradigm. I also think that’s really, really rare. Most people who are “Punching Up” expect, and receive, absolutely no consequences to their activism, except for the spotlight they were looking for, indifference, or infamy from their like-powered opposition. The MLK (or Ford, if you prefer) version of punching up has a bravery component baked into it… Everything else is a cathartic scream into the ether, and while that might be personally therapeutic, I’m confused as to why anyone should care.

    Also, and separately, your analysis suggests a single power scale which is easily measured, when in fact there are many power scales, interrelated to greater and lesser degrees, with varying error bars for measurements of them.

    I think I am, and that’s on purpose, but I’m willing to talk it out. I think the ability to act in a way that is detrimental in a meaningful way to a person’s life is probably the only measure of power that’s relevant.

    Very few people will have identical bases of power, and that only becomes more likely the wider a definition you use for “power”. Merely having more wealth, or holding a political view, or being more attractive, or whatever dynamic you’d like to explore, should not open someone up for abuse.

    If an unattractive person is standing beside a supermodel. That supermodel, while having some kind of power by being attractive, does not necessarily have any more or less relevant power than the unattractive person. If all of a sudden, the unattractive person starts yelling at the model. That’s not punching up, is it? The model is a victim. Attacking the model isn’t brave, it’s rude. The unattractive person might feel catharsis, taking out their insecurities at someone who they think is more attractive than them, but that does not make it right.

  22. 22
    Kate says:

    To inflict harm, you need to have the upper hand, at least in a localized manner. When Oprah gets a wage slave fired because she refused to serve her after hours, it’s not punching up.

    But most people on the left don’t want to inflict harm. They want the police to stop harassing and killing people in their communities. They want a comfortable living wage for an honest day of hard work. They want people who are sick to be cared for, not left to die in the street. They want to be able to go into a town hall, pharmacy or bakery and be served, not turned out for their race, because some random clerk doesn’t approve of the medication their doctor prescribed or for their perceived sexual preferences.
    I only vaguely remember the case with Oprah being refused service in a high end shop. She was right to protest being refused service based on her race. Firing one, low level person for what was almost certainly systemic racism in a big company is obviously bullshit. If that is what Oprah demanded (as opposed to an examination of the broader company culture, etc.) then I agree, that is not punching up.

    Oh, that’s very easy to tell.

    Are you getting punched back, then slammed face first on the curb, and stomped on the back of your head?

    No?

    Then you are punching down.

    Several people answered this well above, providing a number of counterexamples.
    @9, when I spoke of “punching up vs. punching down” I was mostly thinking rhetorically and politically. Are you, with your platform and your vote, trying to funnel more money into poor neighbourhoods, or to millionaires and billionares? Are you supporting expansion of access to healthcare, or elimination of existing programs which will take healthcare away from millions and funnel ever more money into the pockets of insurance and pharmaceutical company executives? Are you speaking out about black people being killed by police, or demanding that the police use violence to silence the protesters?
    In western democracies in 2020, the vast majority of people who speak out for the less powerful on these issues are not in danger, although some are.
    Colin Kaepernick had his football career ruined for speaking out. But, what he did MATTERED. He dramatically increased awareness and support for his cause.
    And, yes, when we look at violence – right wing terrorists who plot the kidnapping of a governor and the targeting of law enforcement officers are apprehended peacefully and will see their days in court; while a left winger who may have been acting in self defense winds up dead in a hail of gunfire.

  23. 23
    Corso says:

    @22

    Oprah’s been refused service a couple of time, the case you were thinking of was in 2013, when she asked to look at a $38,000 alligator purse in Switzerland, and the clerk kept on trying to push the sale towards a more “affordable” option.

    The case Petar is talking about was in 2005, when the store staff of Hermes in Paris wouldn’t let Oprah in to the store because the store was closed and being set up for an after hours event. Winfrey went so far to call the American head office of Hermes and yes, tried to get those wage slaves fired.

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/06/23/AR2005062302086.html

  24. 24
    Ampersand says:

    It seems unfair to say Oprah “tried to get those wage slaves fired.” I don’t think a black person is obligated not to report what they sincerely (even if mistakenly) think is a case of racist treatment, even if by reporting there’s a chance an employee will be fired; and I don’t think it’s fair to frame such a report as trying to get someone fired.

    Even in the company’s version of events, which you seem to accept without question, Oprah didn’t demand that anyone be fired. She asked for (and received) an apology.

    But let’s say she was, as you claim, trying to get someone fired. If so, she failed; she did not have that power. So by Petar’s definition, then, she was not punching down.

  25. 25
    Petar says:

    But let’s say she was, as you claim, trying to get someone fired. If so, she failed; she did not have that power. So by Petar’s definition, then, she was not punching down.

    So by your interpretation of my definition, if Trump tries to have someone incarcerated for calling him “a broke crook milking the US taxpayers to shore up his failing businesses”, and fails, he is not punching down?

    The employee, by the way, got moved to a less prestigious location, and even that location was the target of American tourists’ protests at least twice. The employee moved to Provence, and changed her name. That’s all I remember from an article I read a couple of years after the event. I think she got punched pretty hard, from reasonably high up.

    Speaking of not Oprah, I am reasonably light skinned when not tanned, and I own a professional wardrobe that is not terribly out of date. I bet you dollars to donuts that I can name you at least three situations in which I will NOT be allowed to test drive, have fitted, or check on my wrist items from specific stores.

    I wear a Rolex. I know for a fact, due to experience, that I will not be allowed to handle some more expensive models without a couple of extra steps. The last time I upgraded, the clerk friendly chatted with me until two mall security guys covered the store exits, and before handling me the upgrade, politely asked to look at my watch… pretty obviously checking to make sure that it is not in fact a cheap fake.

    It is absolutely a fact that in luxury stores clerks are instructed to use their judgement and refuse to handle very expensive items to individuals who look suspicious. You get judged according to accent, clothes, wheels and yes, skin color.

    I have been refused service in South Carolina for being from California. (No, I did not volunteer the information. It was the kind of store where you present ID to get access)

    ———-

    By the way, just so that I can understand how you guys think. If a white woman walks in the same store as Oprah, dressed as Oprah was, and does not get to handle a €50,000 handbag, does this mean that the Oprah treatment was not due to racism?

    And if that’s the case, does the fact that Oprah has complained to American government officials about her treatment in at least seven stores in at least four countries (UK, Italy, France and Switzerland) mean that she is privileged? Because I certainly have received shit treatment plenty of times, without involving any diplomats.

    ———-

    By the way, I will answer other posts, just not right now.

  26. 26
    Kate says:

    …does the fact that Oprah has complained to American government officials about her treatment in at least seven stores in at least four countries (UK, Italy, France and Switzerland) mean that she is privileged? Because I certainly have received shit treatment plenty of times, without involving any diplomats.

    Forgive me for making assumptions…but you aren’t as famous as Oprah, are you? Of course Oprah is privileged along the axes of wealth and fame. But, she is not privileged along the axes of race or gender. She is also of an age and weight that often receives sub-standard service in high end shops. Can you find an example of a well-dressed white woman as famous as Oprah is who has been denied service in “at least seven stores in at least four countries”? If not, I am going to continue to believe that her repeatedly being denied service is at least partially due to racism.

  27. 27
    Petar says:

    As famous as Oprah? In France and Italy? I lived in France in the early 80s and in Italy in the early 90s. Donahue and Oprah were examples of immondiaza, i.e. trash culture. She was definitely not someone whom you would necessarily recognize, or even admit that you are recognizing if you are a certain kind of pretentious parvenu.

    High end designers in Europe are infamous for refusing to sell their wares to celebrities they do not want to be associated with. When Jane Birkin released Je t’aime moi non plus (the song, not the movie) which was considered pornographic, and was associated with frankly ludicrous rumors, she had to take a break from modeling, acting, etc. Famous designers’ oeuvres are not for sluts, nor fat cows, nor any other sort of plebs. (Disclaimer for morons – I do not think that Jane Birkin is a slut, that fat people are subhuman, or that people who work for a living should know their place.)

    So, basically, Oprah is complaining that she was not recognized. She demanded that a store opens after hours for her, in another case she demanded to be let into an invitation only event, and in another she demanded to view goods that is usually not presented to mere mortals. Or at least, her entourage demanded. And I use demanded advisedly. Some of these are on security footage, and her entourage sounds like major league assholes.

    So basically you are defending the right of an ultra-rich, ultra-demanding person to make life miserable for people who committed the crime of not recognizing her.

    I am pretty sure that most clerks in Zurich know Oprah exactly as well as they know me or you, and will give us the exact same opportunity to get intimate or abscond with a handbag that costs more than their yearly salary.

    ——–

    I just ran a few searches in French on Oprah. She is known for three things. Two of them are her philanthropic work, and her support for Obama. The third is not her show. I bet you can guess what it is.

  28. 28
    Mookie says:

    High end designers in Europe are infamous for refusing to sell their wares to celebrities they do not want to be associated with.

    […]

    So, basically, Oprah is complaining that she was not recognized.

    Which is it?

    I am pretty sure that most clerks in Zurich know Oprah exactly as well as they know me or you, and will give us the exact same opportunity to get intimate or abscond with a handbag that costs more than their yearly salary.

    How do they sell their bags but by permitting people, who repeatedly assert they can afford the thing, to look at them up close? There was never any question of “absconding,” of course. The sales clerk just kept insisting she couldn’t afford it and the manager later confirmed that the issue wasn’t removing it from display but the price itself.

    For the record, per same link as above, Oprah reasonably conceded that she expected no one in Switzerland to “recognize” her as a distinctly American celebrity.

  29. 29
    Ampersand says:

    So by your interpretation of my definition, if Trump tries to have someone incarcerated for calling him “a broke crook milking the US taxpayers to shore up his failing businesses”, and fails, he is not punching down?

    Yup. But keep in mind, I think your definition is ridiculous.

    The employee, by the way, got moved to a less prestigious location, and even that location was the target of American tourists’ protests at least twice. The employee moved to Provence, and changed her name. That’s all I remember from an article I read a couple of years after the event.

    I doubt this is true; I’ve googled around some without finding any such story. Given how famous Oprah is, and how invested many conservatives are about hating her over this exact incident, it seems very unlikely that such a thing could have happened, and been reported, and yet not be easy to find in a search.

    You get judged according to accent, clothes, wheels and yes, skin color.

    Do you think it’s wrong for customers to complain about such treatment? And also, since you seem to agree that clerks and security do sometimes discriminate based on skin color, why are you seemingly so invested in the idea that Oprah wasn’t discriminated against based on skin color?

    By the way, just so that I can understand how you guys think. If a white woman walks in the same store as Oprah, dressed as Oprah was, and does not get to handle a €50,000 handbag, does this mean that the Oprah treatment was not due to racism?

    There’s never going to be a way to know for certain. But that would certainly make the claim that it had nothing to do with racism more plausible.

    And if that’s the case, does the fact that Oprah has complained to American government officials about her treatment in at least seven stores in at least four countries (UK, Italy, France and Switzerland) mean that she is privileged?

    This is the sort of thing that it would be helpful for you to provide supporting links for.

    That said, of course Oprah is privileged, by wealth and by position. It’s pretty common for people to be privileged in some ways, while also being marginalized in other ways.

  30. 30
    Petar says:

    High end designers in Europe are infamous for refusing to sell their wares to celebrities they do not want to be associated with.

    So, basically, Oprah is complaining that she was not recognized.

    Which is it?

    Wow, this is for real?

    The first quote is my response to whether famous people have been refused service. Melania Trump was refused service by some French designer a couple years back. Instead of using that example, because I am not sure how famous Melania Trump is in France, on her own merits, I gave an example of someone who was undoubtedly famous at the time she was dropped like a hot potato for recording an erotically charged song.

    The second quote is undoubtedly what I believe happened in Oprah’s case, and no one reading what I wrote in good faith could believe otherwise. She was not recognized, so she was treated like a mere mortal.

    If I really wanted to push it, I could say that the reason the customers of these high end stores are not falling over themselves to introduce Oprah to their purveyors, is because they’re not sure an association with her would reflect positively on them. But that would be completely unfounded, as I do not even pretend to know how those people think.

    How do they sell their bags but by permitting people, who repeatedly assert they can afford the thing, to look at them up close?

    It varies from country to country and state to state. On the West Coast of the US, and some *cough*sans noblesse*cough* places in London, it’s how much wealth you can display. An expensive watch, a diamond stuck somewhere (clothes are OK, for old farts like me) and a showroom perfect classic car will get you great service nine times out of ten.

    Some places on the East Coast and in most of Europe, that’s not enough. You have to be introduced by an existing customer, and it’s best if it is a parent of yours. Wealth by itself is not enough for many places. Race is not as important as appearance and behavior. Not speaking at least one of the languages in Switzerland? I have personally seen a beautiful, blond, blue eyed woman with a Swiss passport and Boston/Catholic private school/MIT education get neglected and mocked for only speaking English. A polite, slightly self-deprecating intervention in French straightened the situation in seconds. English could have done it, but it would have been a strike against me and her.

    And speaking for myself, unless I am playing a role, I could not get decent service in most high end stores in France. If I admit that I am Bulgarian? I’m scum. I may speak French like a native, I may look French enough, and I may (I don’t, I’m way out of date) know how to behave like haut monde, but I will never be more than a better-gilded-than-usual Gypsy. There is a reason that I live in California. The last time I flew through Germany, I got treated the worse I’ve been in my life, excluding times I’ve actually done something about it.

    If you are not one of their known customers, it’s a song and a dance, especially if you do not look like the typical person that they sell to. The song and dance is different if you are a Californian in a South Carolina gun store, or a guy with an Eastern European accent in a French jewelry store, or a white guy in a Volvo in a automotive store that caters to L.A. rap stars. (Just as an aside, I’ve been all of those, and in the last case I was not a customer, but from corporate, and the salesmen did not know it. And yes, a set of compound, variable offset, high end, custom plated, forged alloy wheels can be an item not demoed to all who ask.)

    Now, you may ask yourself, why Oprah is so awful at getting introductions, and fails so often at the song and dance? I do not know. But thanks to this thread, I’ve listened to her entourage conversation with the staffers at Hermes, and the answer may be “Because she surrounds herself with abrasive assholes.”

    So by your interpretation of my definition, if Trump tries to have someone incarcerated for calling him “a broke crook milking the US taxpayers to shore up his failing businesses”, and fails, he is not punching down?

    Yup. But keep in mind, I think your definition is ridiculous.

    My definition was of the type If Not A Then B. Applied to Oprah in the Hermes case, it would correctly conclude that she was punching down. She got an apology despite there being incontrovertible evidence that the store was not open to the public, that she was asking for special treatment, that the staffers did not use slurs about North Americans, that the Hermes American office was lied to (by Oprah or her entourage, I cannot tell which)

    Oprah tried to create trouble for the staffer, and she (Oprah) did not get hurt for the attempt. My definition, properly applied, concludes that Oprah was punching down.

    Your interpretation of my definition is completely bogus, in the Trump example, as in the Oprah example. First, the retaliation failing to achieve its maximum goals does not allow you to apply the definition to Trump or Oprah. It only helps to evaluate the actions of their target. And second, just because the staffer did not get immediately fired, or that Trump’s accuser did not get jailed does not mean that they were not hurt. Defending against accusations, or being held responsible for your employer being the target of Oprah’s fans is no picnic.

    Even in the company’s version of events, which you seem to accept without question, Oprah didn’t demand that anyone be fired. She asked for (and received) an apology.

    Ampersand, in that case, it is undeniable that whoever leaked it to the press lied about what was said. There were mentions of racial slurs, there was the assertions of other shoppers being allowed to go in, etc. None of this was true. There were earlier announcements of a private event, the people inside were not shoppers but staff, no one from the staff insulted anyone or spoke of North Africans, and the entourage was most definitely not polite. Sometimes later, Marseille l’Hebdo got hold of the security tapes, and posted the article I remember. No, I cannot link to it. You can call me a liar all you want, although I have to say that all the information except the employment history of the staffer who refused to let Oprah in can be otherwise confirmed.

    By the way, the last time I bothered quoting/linking articles on here, I linked speeches by ministers, representatives, guidelines by the Japanese government, policies of major newspapers, and I was told ‘It’s fringe’.

    The last time I linked French articles listing both males and females who got killed after false rape accusation, I was told that that it was just local publications, and is irrelevant to the argument “the damage from false rape accusations is trivially insignificant compared to the damage from not believing women.”

    I am not going to trawl Marceille L’Hebdo’s archives, which are a mess after the financials troubles of La Provence’s publisher group, which have happened since.

    By the way, why did conservatives not pick the story up? Because the slant was very leftist. To you, Oprah is a persecuted minority. To L’Hebdo, this is a story of a immensely powerful, crass American who asked for favored treatment that she could have not possibly have gotten, then lied about the specifics in the press, and still got an apology by a spineless corporation that was afraid to stand for its workers, and which kept the security tapes away from the public eye as not to get any more flak from Oprah and her legions of fans. American Conservatives do not read l’Hebdo at breakfast, and if they do, it would not be the Marceille branch.

    You think there are always two sides, that you are Leftists, and everyone who does not march with you is a conservative, if not a right winger.

    To a French leftist, let alone a classical Marxist, woke Progressives are just a tool which the blue-colored subset of the American right wing politicians use to convince half of Americans to vote against their interests. The red colored subset uses tools like Rush Limbaugh, Alex Jones, etc. to achieve the same goal.

    To a Marxist, you have two sides:
    – a corporation that caters to the rich and snooty, and whose employees are under the stress of obeying company policy and trying to assess customers on the fly, while being held responsible for damage and wear on the products
    – a very powerful, very rich individual, who insists on getting treatment that is not offered to the common man: access to a store after hours, access to an invitation only event, access to an item that is usually not offered to strangers, etc.

    The store clerk is a victim. She got abused by Oprah’s entourage, she got outed by Oprah’s fans, she got refused the support from her company (those tapes were somehow obtained by l’Hebdo, not released by Hermes)

    The clerk in Trois Pommes may have been a racist. But no one in this thread would get better treatment than Oprah, without an effort Oprah felt was beneath her to make.

    The clerk did not create the policy that only some customers get shown all items. She did not recognize Oprah. She is not at fault that Oprah went to a store in a quad-lingual country, and spoke a fifth language. I may agree with Oprah saying that “You should be able to go in a store looking like whatever you look like and say, ‘I’d like to see this.’ That didn’t happen.”

    But that is not the world we live in.

  31. 31
    a says:

    It seems like the old Left (which I have some empathy for) would have taken any opening to criticize a billionaire in negative encounters with people of normal means.

    That doesn’t seem to be the case anymore. I don’t want to get into dueling links / websites, but I think that people could reasonably agree that Oprah’s behavior wasn’t 100% pure in all of these stories.

    So I think it’s strange that a billionaire is being given the benefit of the doubt, or even “worshipped” by some here. I guess it’s because she’s female and black, so she’s oppressed according to modern thought, but being a billionaire used to trump that on the left. From reports I’ve seen, she has an ego the size of Texas, and I don’t like arrogant people from the get-go.

  32. 32
    Ampersand says:

    Who here has said they worship Oprah?

  33. 33
    Görkem says:

    This whole Oprah thing has become a massive derail

  34. 34
    a says:

    Who here has said they worship Oprah?

    No one. No one here said that they worship Oprah. Some may have possibly given her the benefit of the doubt, or may have “worshiped” her, as a rib-tickling, hyperbolic statement.

    Or something like that. But I feel that it doesn’t really address the core of my post.

  35. 35
    Ampersand says:

    “This whole Oprah thing has become a massive derail.”

    Truth!

    I think that people could reasonably agree that Oprah’s behavior wasn’t 100% pure in all of these stories.

    I agree. I suspect everyone else here would agree, too.

    or may have “worshiped” her, as a rib-tickling, hyperbolic statement.

    To me, it came across more as a sneering insult, which is why I questioned it. I’m glad you didn’t intend it as an insult.

  36. 36
    Görkem says:

    It’s a bit suspicious to put a word in quote marks when it doesn’t actually represent something somebody else has said, but instead your interpretation of what they have said. Especially if your interpretation is not a charitable one.

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