The feeding tube frenzy swirling around “America's Most Wanted Desperate Housewife,” Terri Schiavo, just goes to show how rightwing ideologues only spare their “compassion” for those who can't raise their voices and speak out against these unctuous vultures smothering them in false piety i.e.: aborted fetuses, murdered moppets, coma victims and dead Jesus. (Clearly, the Mel Gibson meat puppet version of Christ does a better job promoting the Republican agenda than the living, breathing, political agitator who scorned the wealthy and believed in taxes.)
Similarly, these angels of death have made martyrs out of Jon Benet Ramsey, Laci Peterson and now Terri Schiavo -- people they had no interest in in life, but whom they now fetishize in death. Necrophilia has always been at the center of wingnut ideology, as evidenced by their preoccupations with the unborn and the undead. And no one personifies the rightwing death cult agenda more than Peggy Noonan, who has made a career insinuating herself with corpses: Ronald Reagan, the late Senator Paul Wellstone (on whom she performed a post-mortem act of ventriloquism and had him criticizing his mourners for their “partisan” eulogies at his own funeral).
Ms. Noonan now leads America's professional class of funeral mourners -- the paid strangers who will sob over an open coffin to give the impression that their intended victims merit these public convulsions of fake compassion.
There are virtually hundreds of websites where her ghoulish mourners can gather to say graveside “prayers” for Laci Peterson and “Baby Connor.” And with Scott Peterson's conviction out of the way, they have now moved on to hold cyber vigils for Terri Schiavo, whose vegetative state reflects their own.
Since feminism was successfully transformed under the banner of neoliberalism into just another consumer option, (“the right to shoes”) a kind of backlash women's movement has emerged in “Red State” America, where local communities have been crushed under the weight of Wal-Mart and Evangelical Christianity. The adherents to this new religion are, for the most part, politically and economically disenfranchised women seeking an outlet for their feelings of rage and hopelessness. With McMedia spurring them on with its wall-to-wall coverage of sensational trials, these women have adopted the silent symbols of gender inequity like Nicole Simpson, Laci Peterson, and now, Terri Schiavo as their official martyrs.
It's not hard to understand why Michael Schiavo has become the official anti-Christ of this movement. For these women, he is the personification of every ex-husband in progress; the all-too-common deadbeat “ex” who would literally cut them off the life-support system of alimony and/or child support. For them, Terri Schiavo's feeding tube has become a symbol of their own disengagement from the institutional safety nets that Republicans have successfully dismantled, leaving them literally hanging on to life while more powerful men decide their fate.
And just when the world seemed safe from Atlanta shooter hostage Ashley Smith and the author of her inspirational bedside reading material, The Purpose Driven Life, McMedia shifts gears to clog the airwaves with 24 hour coverage of another “Woman on the Verge of a Spiritual Makeover,” Terri Schiavo.
From the moment Jeb Bush's big brother stood in front of a rigged Diebold voting machine on November 2nd and declared “Mission Accomplished,” cable and network news began inserting words like “faith” and “miracle” into their teleprompters in a cynical shift rightwards to cash in on all those “faith-based” votes.
McMedia Corp's willingness to embed itself with the enemy was presciently satirized in The Simpsons a few years back. Most Simpsons fans probably remember the episode where obsequious and opportunistic news anchor Kent Brockman hastily announces his allegiance to giant space ants on air after Homer (who's orbiting the earth in a space shuttle) accidentally tips over his ant farm, releasing hundreds of the tiny antennaed creatures throughout the space craft. When they appear on camera looking like giant alien fiends poised for world domination, Springfield's own “Aaron Brown Rather” briefly welcomes them as his new bosses before he realizes his mistake. Little has changed in the years since, as mainstream news hacks continue to prostrate themselves before their new masters to become the official mouthpieces (and butt plugs) for Jerry Falwell and Tom DeLay.
After the Columbine High School massacre in 1999, McMedia went on a rampage through the well-manicured streets of Littleton, Colorado looking for clues as to how this tragedy could have happened, and psychoanalyzing every little aspect of life in an otherwise picture perfect community. By contrast, the invisible inhabitants of the Red Lake Indian Reservation (where the latest school massacre took place) are considered unworthy subjects for pop-psychologists and armchair experts since they fall into a class and income bracket that renders them irrelevant to the interests of “real Americans.” Perhaps if the average American ever got a glimpse into life on an Indian reservation, they might just abandon their comfortably held delusions about the “Land of the Free” and feel less inclined to celebrate the “American West” and cheer for the “Redskins”. The realization of a genocide going on in your own backyard tends to put a damper on the BBQ festivities. And without these myths to pin their illusions on, these Americans would have to suffer the consequences of a wake up call -- something that certainly doesn't bode well for the ratings-driven media, who spin these urban legends at the behest of their CEO bosses. Cherokee jeeps and Disney Pocahontas DVDs would have a harder sell if the media ever stopped embedding itself in the suburbs. This may explain why Columbine survivors have become the official mouthpieces of this tragedy and the people of Red Lake have become a “First Nation” of Terri Schiavos; long cut off at the decision making level and silent witnesses to their own extinction.
So it's better to dismiss teen shooter Jeff Weise as an anomaly (“the neo-Nazi Indian kid”) and expend our energies on worthier recipients of our compassion like Terri Schiavo who, conveniently for everyone, remains silent on the subject of her tormentors.
(Special thanks to Ozric, Kim Nicolini, and Jodi Dean)
Leilla Matsui is a freelance writer living in Tokyo, Japan. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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