So MSNBC posted a few transcribed fragments (about 2 minutes of a 20 minute stand-up routine) of Margaret Cho’s set at a MoveOn event. From MSNBC the transcript migrated to Drudge, and from Drudge to a thread on FreeRepublic (down, down, sinking ever down).
And from there, a remarkable deluge of hate mail, mostly criticizing Cho for being fat, Asian and female, traits that are considered grievous flaws by some right-wingers. The mail suggests that Cho should go back to China (Cho, who has Korean-American parents, was born in San Francisco); the mail uses the phrase “slant-eyed” over and over again; the mail suggests she should go fuck a pig.
Cho’s reply, on her blog, shows that she has a thousand times more wit and class than her attackers:
Cho’s manager originally posted the hateful emails intact – including the names and email addresses of the writers. As a result, the haters have been flooded with emails, and some of them begged Cho to remove their emails from her website. Cho, showing the hate mail writers far more decency than they’d earned, complied and is asking that her supporters no longer send emails.
Remarkably, a few of the hate mail writers have since written again to apologize. One person who originally wrote in to call Cho a “fuckin’ fat cunt” wrote again to apologize, and added that “I am the father of a daughter, the husband of a wife, the son of a mother and the brother of a sister and I feel like I owe them an apology also–although I’ll never be brave enough to do so.” It’s surprising that he’s perceptive enough to realize that his misogyny was an insult to all women, not just to Cho.
Years ago, when I was one of the token feminists on the anti-feminist Usenet group “alt.feminism,” most of the folks there assumed I was a woman. I would sometimes get vile, angry, semi-literate emails. Once it became better-known that I was male, the frequency of the hate mail went down. There was apparently no longer as much need to slap me back down into my proper place, once I was no longer thought a woman.
“D Ce” wrote an excellent analysis of the Cho hate mail, which was published on American Politics Journal. Here’s a sample:
The irony is of course both ludicrous and painful — men who fancy that “their” Anglo-American culture is so civilised and superior to all others, are nevertheless eager to pick up their (verbal, thank goodness) rocks and indulge in an orgy of misogynist abuse and vicarious/fantasy violence. They indulge all the more freely and with no pause for reflection, since the verbal abuse occurs online, in the virtual world — semi-anonymous and “not real”. But the viciousness, the intent to hurt and humiliate, and the evident relishing of the intended hurt and humiliation, are quite real even if no physical contact is ever made. The racism is hardly distinguishable from the misogyny — race is sexualised and gender is racialised, both vilified in one seamless paroxysm of loathing.
I have the deepest sympathy for Ms Cho. She was of course selected more or less at random, in our perverse new variant on Warhol’s axiomatic 15 minutes of fame. You can never tell who the hatemongers will put in their crosshairs next, who will happen to catch their fickle attention. One week it will be Penn, then Sarandon, then they’ll drag Jane Fonda out of cold storage again, then Hillary Clinton… The intensity of the attack has little to do with anything actually said or done by the target; the fickle attention of the e-mob skitters over the surface of celebrity and visibility, a plectrum on the Ouija board of our culture-wars.
In a very real sense — as I am sure Cho understands — it’s nothing personal, it’s strictly business. The rightwing demagogues promote this kind of hate-fest almost as a commercial service, a form of pimping — inviting their “friends” to the next scheduled public stoning or hanging, as it were. It’s both an entertainment and a ritual, like cock-fighting or bear-baiting. Like cock-fighting and bear-baiting it is a ritual closely linked to essentialist notions about masculinity and male pride. The dual nature of the Internet makes the poison-pen campaign an ambiguously public experience, with elements of both group exhibitionism and intensely private (masturbatory, as attested by the content of these hate mails to Cho) self-indulgence.
D Ce’s analysis is exactly on-target, in my view. It’s men with a peculiar notion of masculinity – that masculinity is something that can be threatened or lost and is under attack and must be defended – who would think to write such hate mail. D Ce likens the mass asshole attack on Cho to a circle-jerk. It has elements of that to it, but I think it also has elements of a frat house gang rape. Not that writing a racist, woman-hating email is the same as rape – of course, it’s not equivalent at all. And I’m not saying that the letter-writers would themselves rape if they had the chance (I have no way of knowing). But I think the wellspring of contempt for women and wounded “masculinity” that led to this orgy of hate-mail, is the same wellspring that rapists drink deep from.
Cho’s manager has asked that no more letters of support be sent, right now – Cho’s mailbox is overflowing with support. As disgusting as Cho’s attackers are, it’s a pleasure to see her rise above them so effortlessly.
Some links via The Sideshow.