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Friday, July 29, 2016

The Great Honduran Flag Hoax, or, How the NCGOP learned to love Chairman Mao

A one-time friend, who moves among the tonier banquettes at conservative intellectuals' dinner events, used to go one endlessly about political correctness in America being a direct offshoot of Chinese Cultural Revolutionism.

Steven Hayward was an early, and full-throated, defender of Christian cake-bakers to ignore simple, free-market solutions like a sign on the door reading "No Gays Served." Rather they should have the right to spring it on individual customers, the better to give them a full dose of Christian love of the sinner, if his not his or her desire to exercise the civil legal right to marry and give guests a few pounds of flour and lard to celebrate with (Waldo gave the column a more thorough going-over here).

Two years ago, Hayward wrote of that case of "let them not eat cake!",
An administrative law judge sided with Craig and Mullins against Phillips, and in late May the Colorado Civil Rights Commission further ordered that Phillips and his employees be sent to re-education camp—make that “sensitivity training”—to make sure Masterpiece Cakeshop never violates gay rights again....I wonder how Craig and Phillips might fare if they’d requested a wedding cake from a Muslim-owned bakery, or whether the Colorado Civil Rights Commission would have required Muslims to attend “sensitivity training” re-education camps.
Fealty to facts is a flexible principle with Hayward in his defense of discrimination (and surprising in the author of a respected multivolume bio of Ronald Reagan). At the end of his 2014 Forbes piece, he didn't hesitate to use an easily-checked fake story to make his point; when caught out, he simply joked that maybe it hadn't happened yet, but surely it would eh? (He won't even admit that the story is really, objectively, false).

Wink, wink. Nudge, nudge:
Would a Jewish or African-American bake shop be required to supply a cake to a White supremacist group? Actually, a KKK chapter in Georgia won a complaint against a bakery last year.  (Correction: This story appears to be an Onion-like hoax, though it was widely picked up and spread elsewhere by other news sites. Like all good satire, who doubts that it could come to pass?)
I found myself wondering, this morning, what Hayward will think of this announcement:
In an email to McClatchy, Woodhouse wrote: “A young member of our staff made a mistake and it was immediately corrected. Period.” 
The members of the staff involved with the tweet “are facing severe internal sanctions and mandatory retraining,” Woodhouse said.
I ask because this isn't some pot-addled Colorado human rights commission ALJ talking. It's the executive director of the North Carolina Republican Party:
The North Carolina Republican Party apologized Thursday after one of its staff members incorrectly accused Democratic vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine of wearing a Honduras flag pin during his acceptance speech. 
Kaine was wearing a Blue Star service flag pin, which indicates that the person bearing the pin has a family member in the military during a time of war or hostilities. He wore the pin Wednesday during the 2016 Democratic National Convention as he spoke about his son, 1st Lt. Nathaniel Kaine, an infantry officer serving with the 2nd Battalion, 8th Marines. The younger Kaine recently deployed to Eastern Europe. 
Kaine “wears a Honduras flag pin on his jacket but no American flag. Shameful,” the state party tweeted as he was speaking. Kaine had worked with Jesuit missionaries in Honduras. 
Someone deleted the tweet Wednesday night. The following morning, North Carolina GOP Executive Director Dallas Woodhouse apologized for the staff error on Twitter.
What makes the NCGOP slur so hard to swallow, to borrow one of the party's throat-abuse memes, is that it shows what happens when you think social media is about controlling the spin of every event, every day, from minute to minute. No points are given for saying anything thoughtful, or informative, or even factually correct. No one in the loathed print and electronic media picks up a boring tweetstorm (As we learned from the late, unlamented South Carolina blog, The Palmetto Scoop, it's all about earned media! "Tip me, Baby!" its mudslinging scribe, Adam Fogle, used to shout).

What counts today is being snarky and ironic and FAST, and that's how70-year-oldd NCGOP chair Robin Hayes (who recently hired a Christian Values Coalition office admin, the "winsome" Kami Mueller, as party spokesbabe) thinks the party's hip Instagrams and tweets prove it relates to the young, and has mastered the modern media landscape.

All it really does is pander to old, white, angry Fox News watchers with a bent for technology.

Santayana warned us those who fail to remember the past are doomed to repeat it; those who never knew the past in the first place become wunderkind Republican tweeters. Take Matt Walker, son of the Wisconsin governor and fresh out of college; and Ricky Diaz. Both spit out cleverness for Team McCrory; Diaz is in his second innings at it (in 2012, at 23, he leveraged his fast thumbs into an $80,000 a year job as spokesboy for the Department of Human Resources).

It takes a modern sort of fast-association, image-driven stupid to see a Blue Star Marine Parent pin on Tim Kaine's chest and think it's the fucking flag of Honduras. The tumblers start clicking in the post-factual mind of a Republican manchild:
Reagan...uh, think! Central America...Commies!...Ollie North...Guns...NRA! America! Morning in! Democrats! Weak...terrorist/Sandinistas/guy with the moustache, y'know, taco sauce named for him...who? Ortega! Yeah! Dude! UN-American! trump reference? Shameful!
Kaine's speech wasn't even over before that Honduras tweet went out. Even if Dallas Woodhouse's cheeky fratboys had gotten up close enough to the flatscreen to see that Kaine's lapel pin wasn't the Honduran flag, though, that doesn't mean they would know what it in fact was. No one thought to ask, "OK, dude, so why's Kaine wearing a Honduras pin?"

Instead, out went this:
“[Tim Kaine] wears a Honduras flag pin on his jacket but no American flag. Shameful.”

Read more here:
The GOP and the military don't actually cross paths much any more, not since Richrd Nixon made service coluntary to defuse the anti-Vietnam movement.

Republicans in Washington like to send the military to play war so the congressmen can work their joysticks watching it like a video game back home.

They fetishize military service as ardently as the older among them once did their military service deferments.

But they don't know the details any more. That's how Republicns find it easy to inflate, or invent, military service records- like Republican Washingtn Rep. Graham Hunt, who made up service tours, and awarded himself medals, that didn't exist.

NC GOP leaders treat the military as a personal army of vote-casters, too. They think stringing together some Lego talk, phrases pollster Frank Luntz says gets the soldiers and vets ginned up, means they will march right to the voting booths and do their duty for God, America and the GOP.

But it's a risky business, getting caught being this damn stupid- mocking a man whose son has actually joined and served and been in places where real guns get shot in battles- in a state with 1.3 million service members and dependents, and 700,000 veterans. They may begin realize the GOP takes them for granted, and thinks they are as dumb as the party's twenty-something tweeters, guzzling Red Bull and and chomping Doritos in Robin Hayes' basement.

There will be no severe internal discipline. There will be no mandatory retraining (in what, anyway? American history? Watching episodes of Sheldon Cooper's "Fun With Flags"?)

The news cycle moves on, and Republicans move even faster. As The Charlotte Observer reported last night,
U.S. Rep. Robert Pittenger, R-Charlotte, called it a “nonissue” in an email.“People make honest mistakes, and the NCGOP acknowledged their mistake,” he said.
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