No, I’m not talking about that Black Mirror episode that made some of us stop watching after the pilot because… where do you go after you begin with political porcine procreation?
I’m talking about what can be appropriately dubbed “Pig Fucker Politics.” Although I’m not sure if this is a commonly used term, it should be. What I call “Pig Fucker Politics” specifically refers to the cynical political strategy of leveling outlandish accusations at your political opponent, hoping that by compelling your opponent to contest the ridiculous accusation you have forced them debase themselves and lose their dignity in the process.
Artist rendering of “Dignity.” If the picture does not make sense, it is recommended to show this to the cat: because the cat will get it.
In “Fear and Loathing On The Campaign Trail ’72,” Hunter S. Thompson chronicled Senator George McGovern’s failed Presidential bid. In discussing McGovern’s distaste for ‘dirty politics’ that undermined his ability to hit back, Thompson regaled his readers with a famous story of Lyndon B. Johnson–who purportedly created a ridiculous rumor about his opponent on purpose:
“This is one of the oldest and most effective tricks in politics. Every hack in the business has used it in times of trouble, and it has even been elevated to the level of political mythology in a story about one of Lyndon Johnson’s early campaigns in Texas.
“The race was close and Johnson was getting worried. Finally he told his campaign manager to start a massive rumour campaign about his opponent’s life-long habit of enjoying carnal knowledge of his barnyard sows.
“Christ, we can’t get away with calling him a pig-fucker,” the campaign manager protested. “Nobody’s going to believe a thing like that.”
“I know,” Johnson replied. “But let’s make the sonofabitchh deny it.”
McGovern had been famously tarred as the candidate of “Acid, Amnesty, and Abortion,” and he simply did not have an effective counter to this snappy alliterative slogan. The name stuck, and McGovern was defeated by Richard Nixon in a historic landslide, only winning Massachusetts and D.C.’s electoral votes.
(Fun fact: decades later we learned that this anonymous quote came from Democratic Senator Thomas Eagleton, who was famously booted off the McGovern ticket when reports surfaced that he had received electroshock therapy for clinical depression in the 1960s)
If Barry Goldwater had run against LBJ’s pro-lifting beagles by their ears policies perhaps he would have won more than six states.
In recent years, we have seen people increasingly rely on “Pig Fucker Politics”: make a ridiculous accusation, repeat it, and force your opponent to deny it.
In 2010, Delaware Senate Candidate Christine O’Donnell (running for the former seat of then-Vice President Joe Biden–famously put out an ad declaring “I’m Not a Witch” in response to allegations of witchcraft. She lost the race by 16% in a Republican wave year.
Recently in Oklahoma, Jackson Lahmeyer, a 29-year old Q-Anon supporting pastor who has challenged Senator James Lankford in the primary because Lankford voted against decertifying the 2020 election, was forced to make a very strange denial on his Facebook page:
“Unfortunately, I have to say it because people are asking me. I’m in no way involved in Child Sex Trafficking, pedophilia or devil worship. If you believe that it actually says more about you than it does me.”
As part of the ongoing installment of “I never thought the leopards would eat MY face,” Lahmeyer was being attacked by the Qanon forces he had unleashed. He actively courted figures in the Qanon movement and has made “The Big Lie” that the election was stolen the centerpiece of his campaign. But then he posted a photograph of his young daughter in red shoes. Q people think red shoes=Satanic ritual abuse and child sex trafficking, so the rumors began to spread. Which led to Lahmeyer feeling compelled to make a statement denying these charges.
Across the ocean in Australia, Prime Minister Scott Morrison appeared on the radio to purportedly discuss his country’s COVID response. But then, on his own, he decided to rebut an internet rumor that he, the Prime Minister of Australia, crapped his pants at a McDonald’s in 1997.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison wants you to know that he did not crap his pants in 1997. Please stop repeating the baseless rumor that he crapped his pants at a McDonald’s in 1997. Please be mature and stop telling people that Prime Minster Scott Morrison crapped his pants at a McDonalds in 1997 after a Rugby Game
The promulgation of Pig Fucker Politics, while occasionally amusing, is actually deeply corrosive to democracy. That’s because we no longer debate actual policies and the merits thereof. Instead, we are often forced to debate the imaginary strawman version of what the other side is certain you are proposing.
And by “we” I meant mostly right wing Republicans. And it’s not just debating online, this comes up in person constantly.
I knocked on doors for a labor organization in Arizona for the 2020 election season. And the responses from Republicans fell into three categories
Verbal or physical threats against volunteers;
Republicans who are very upset over what they imagine liberal positions to be; or
Slam The Door/Don’t engage;
For the first one, we were trained to have an emergency number to call for threats of violence. At least a few times a week, volunteers would report being chased off someone’s porch by an angry individual–occasionally one who would brandish a firearm. I never encountered physical violence, but I did have a man stick his head out the window and literally scream HUUUUUNNNNTEEEER BIIIIIIIDEEEEEN. That’s when I learned that some people on the internet are EXACTLY like that in real life.
With respect to the latter, I would run into Republican voter after Republican voter who would express outrage over positions liberals do not have (“no ma’am, we are not a Communist organization we believe in private property…” “No sir, the Democrats are not in favor of open borders…” “No ma’am, Democrats aren’t murdering infants shortly after birth I don’t know where you heard that from…” etc.), then show a profound misunderstanding of Democrats’ actual policy prescriptions and critiques of Donald Trump.
“Well… I know Donald Trump isn’t someone you would invite to a dinner party” is something I heard from multiple GOP voters, normally from nice older ladies whose stock portfolios did well and… because they made money that’s the end of their political inquiry.
Will Smith wearing his jacket inside out on the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air is an example of ‘my word! I don’t know if this is the type of person you would invite to our fancy dinner party.’ Dabbling in **light* fascism is a quite different than whether someone would be a good dinner party guest.
But see if you can catch the problem here. These Republicans voters are absolutely convinced they understand why Democrats don’t like Trump, get it very wrong, but instead of correcting themselves they instead shoot down strawman arguments that no one is making to justify supporting Trump as the ‘least bad option’. And you cannot convince them that their premise is wrong. Much like you could not convince pro-Iraq War conservatives from 2003 onward that them liberals do not in fact hate America or the Troops (what a silly concept, who is walking around saying ‘you know who I hate… the troops!’) or that Obamacare was not a secret effort to murder grandma, Trumpian conservatives today are so sure they understand “The Left” that they invent their own reasons to be angry at liberals, and then get mad at liberals for the hypothetical they just made up.
This is a big part of why 2/3 of all Republicans believe the “Big Lie” that the election was stolen: 1) All news critical of Trump is deemed ‘fake news’ so Trump voters self-isolate into a ‘safe space’ to ignore it; 2) Trump voters have no exposure to thoughtful critiques of the Trump Administration on purpose, so they assume everyone must love him like they do; 3) After being assured for years that (contrary to all polling data) everyone loved Donald Trump, they assume that the only way Trump could lose was fraud, so when he loses they are not emotionally prepared to handle reality.
Or to put it succinctly: Trumpian Conservatives have being ruined by “Pig Fucker Politics” to the point where polite debate is nearly impossible.
And in the interest of fairness, online liberals engage in their own form of “Pig Fucker Politics” known as “assumption creep.” Coined by a British liberal writer, “assumption creep” refers to the strategy of taking a real position someone holds, then assuming the person believes a more sinister, secret thing they aren’t disclosing, and attacking them on their secret undisclosed position they do not even hold.
To come up with a few examples based on conversations I’ve seen on social media (paraphrasing): “Oh you don’t support single payer health care? I guess you just in favor of people dying in the streets.” “Oh, you think we should examine the impact of raising the minimum wage before raising the minimum wage? I guess you just want everyone to live on starvation wages.” “You think Health and Human Services should take the time VERIFY host families before transferring unaccompanied minors to their custody? I guess you’re just pro-locking children in cages.” And so forth. The article is from 2015 and worth a read.
However, we must avoid the “both siderist” false equivalence trap. While it’s important to acknowledge this kind of toxic debate strategy does exist among some segments the online left, there’s simply no real equivalence to Trumpian Republicans–who seem to revel in deliberately misunderstanding and misrepresenting what liberals actually believe.
And this doesn’t just impact political consensus and dealmaking, it really prevents us from knowing one another as human beings.
In my travels through red America, again and again I would face the bigotry of low expectations–where my actual human self would clash with the strawman “liberal” that Republicans have convinced themselves lurk around every corner.
Anyone who knows me would know that I hold left-of-center views and wear a lot of flag stuff. But this isn’t some “gag” or something I’m doing ironically, as some have suggested.
I’m a first generation American, both my parents chose this country over all others, and as a lawyer who has sworn an oath to defend the Constitution I have a lot of pride in this country and hold our principles in high esteem. And when we fall short, I believe true patriotism is confronting those truths and learning from them, not this recent anti-free speech trend among the right of creating a fake culture war over Critical Race Theory as a Trojan Horse to pass laws making it illegal to teach real American history because it might make people sad.
I also do not think the right wing has a monopoly on patriotism, and think it’s important that the flag not be seen as a symbol of one political ideology.
But, because the right has been so conditioned to believe their own Pig Fucker Propaganda like “hurr durr Liberals hate America,” it does not appear to compute with Trumpy folk that you can actually be liberal AND love America. I was once introduced to a table of Oklahomans as “the most conservative liberal you could ever meet.” When I asked the individual how he could come to that conclusion knowing what I post on Facebook, he replied “I mean… you wear flag stuff, you’re patriotic, and that’s conservative.”
This also came up when I had a polite political conversation with someone who said “You’re very reasonable… for a liberal.” I thought that was a strange thing to say. Until I learned that he, like a a lot of Republicans these days, get all their news about what a “liberal” is by going into the comments section of news articles, trolling the dumbest people, and then when those people react negatively they can walk away with smug pride that “Well, this is ALL liberals–always accusing people of being racist tools of the patriarchy. Thank goodness they’re all this dumb because now I don’t have to learn how a tax bracket works.”
Ok, they don’t say the last part, but you get the idea. By viewing political opponents specifically through the lens of Pig Fucker Politics, we force people to dedicate most of their energy denying ridiculous accusations instead of debating one another’s actual policy positions. It’s also a great excuse to not educate yourself on your opponent’s actual views.
But while you can find both people on the left and the right who do this; it would be editorial malpractice to suggest there is equivalence to the two. Democrats know exactly who Republicans are and what their goals are; Republicans deliberately choose not to understand who Democrats are.
This is why when I knocked on Democrats’ doors, they would typically list a long line of concrete policy goals they supported and specific Trump policies they opposed. When I knocked on Republican doors… they were very angry about positions no Democrat holds while screaming about Hunter Biden.
Now to be clear, I am absolutely not saying that every Republican is presumed to be a pig fucker until proven otherwise. I am not suggesting that low information Republican voters have so enthusiastically embraced conspiracy theories and strawmen nonsense as a result of a degenerative brain disease that humans can only get from pig fucking. And I am certainly not at all saying that at the end of each day of consuming Tucker Carlson do Republican voters celebrate through ritualistic and animalistic pig fucking on top of a Blue Lives Matter flag.
I am NOT saying that they are all pig fuckers.
But I do want to hear them deny it.