Op Ed

Takedown: Getting What They Deserve

There are things that show up in Facebook feed that warrant a thoughtful deconstruction, there are things that I find irritating but I could understand why somebody, somewhere, might think it’s funny, and then there are graphics that force me to shut down my computer and walk away because the anger is instantaneous and white-hot. Brace yourselves, this is one of the latter.

There should be a snarky caption here, but I can't. I just can't.

I’ve tried to type out a response to this three times already, and each time, I have had to start over. I know the words are there, but it is difficult for me to apply rationality and reason to something as disgusting as this crapdate. Let’s start with what is making my gut turn: this is a picture of violence. It is an image of somebody being brutalized, it is the image of somebody in pain, and it shows such a shocking imbalance of power as to cause a physical reaction in the viewer. It was for this very reason that this picture was chosen – the crapdate poster is trying to make a point that government brutalizes the people. But what the crapdate poster is actually saying is that the person who is getting brutalized is asking for it. That by virtue of their ideology, they deserve to be put through this:

“The effects of pepper spray are far more severe, including temporary blindness which lasts from 15-30 minutes, a burning sensation of the skin which lasts from 45 to 60 minutes, upper body spasms which force a person to bend forward and uncontrollable coughing making it difficult to breathe or speak for between 3 to 15 minutes. “

It can be fatal.

By virtue of standing up for herself, she deserves pepper spray to the face, at point blank range. And what did she do to deserve this? Yelled at a police officer.

Now, the crapdate poster is trying to make a point – that increased government leads to destruction and disaster, and they are trying to make this point by using shocking visuals. But apart from the fact that it is abhorrent to suggest that somebody who yells at a police officer (for whatever reason) deserves pepper spray shot into their eyes at point-blank range, the reasoning behind it is wrong. The trick to crapdates like this, though, is that people are too shocked to think critically about it.

Occupy Wall Street protestors, for one thing, aren’t asking for more government.

“OWS’s goals include a more balanced distribution of income, more and better jobs, bank reform, a reduction in the influence of corporations on politics, and forgiveness of student loan debt.”

You know. A fair tax code so that those living in poverty don’t pay a higher percentage than Mitt Romney, for example. The solution to this might actually be a reduction of red tape. Corporations being removed from politics is a reduction of government. Getting rid of student loans– why, that’s something Ron Paul advocates. There are things that Occupiers want that go along with higher regulations, this is true – generally, higher regulations that protect the individual from corporations. But to say “Occupiers love government” is just wrong. Occupiers hate inequality. There are aspects of government, at this point, that perpetuate inequality:

“Policy also produces the rules of the game that skew benefits upward through the class structure.”

Republicans love to talk about small government, and they love when the government is small – as long as that small government benefits the rich, white men who are already in power. Small government! Except let’s add amendments to the constitution to forbid some people from getting married. Small government! Except the government should be drug-testing welfare recipients. Small government! Except women’s lives should be dictated when it comes to their uteri. Small government! Except when corporations get to form super PACs and, in essence, become a part of the government by means of their money.

Occupy Wall Street is about inequality. Since Occupiers have been associated with the left, the conclusion is that they want more government. That is just as absurd as saying that Republicans are all in favor of small government – because at this point, that isn’t where the fight lies. It isn’t about size of government, but about who gets to control that government, and who gets to benefit from that government. Occupiers want everybody to be able to benefit. The current GOP wants those who have privilege to keep their privilege. So the graphic doesn’t just fail the test of “using violence as a joke,” though, it fails the test of logic.

There is something worse, though. I wrote last week about hiding behind religion when it comes to homophobia. The person who posted this picture on my feed considers himself to be a very strong Christian – lots of church, lots of bible studies, the whole shebang. And it is just so sickening to me that somebody who puts himself forth as a follower of Christ finds this kind of – humor? schadenfreude? – to be so awesome as to warrant a reposting. The image is real. It is a real person, all of 5′ tall, being shot in the face with pepper spray because she took a stand. And the reaction is one of “she deserved it” coupled with hilarity?

I struggle with this. I have strayed far from Christianity over time, and there are times when I want to stray back. I love the ideas behind Christianity. But when those who are pushing it as The One True Way also are posting these kinds of graphics – I don’t want to be associated with that kind of thinking.

Maybe it’s just that I’m becoming too sensitive. Maybe I need to lighten up. On the other hand, maybe a re-evaluation is necessary. Right, left, republican, democrat, Christian, atheist – maybe we should define ourselves by our ability to be decent human beings instead of what box we check on the ballot. Maybe, in reality, it actually is terrible to see a picture of a compatriot who votes differently than you and think it is hilarious that they are in pain.

By Susan

I am old and wise. Perhaps more old than wise, but once you're old, you don't give a shit about details anymore.

19 replies on “Takedown: Getting What They Deserve”

I struggle with this. I have strayed far from Christianity over time, and there are times when I want to stray back. I love the ideas behind Christianity. But when those who are pushing it as The One True Way also are posting these kinds of graphics — I don’t want to be associated with that kind of thinking

This. This describes how I feel perfectly. Excellent take-down. Thank you.

I don’t understand why people who claim Christ can also be so hateful to their fellow humans. In 1 John 4:7-8, it says, “Beloved, let us love one another. For love is of God and everyone that loves is born of God and knows God. They that love not know not God for God is love.” Christians are called to love, not to have warm fuzzies, but to truly love and care for others. It isn’t easy to love someone who thinks differently than you, but it wasn’t easy for Jesus to be crucified either.

Honestly the conservative spin team is fucking ingenious. They have convinced their entire constituency that they are the party of the common man, that big government is bad (unless its in your bedroom), that welfare is for wimps, and that any attempts at garnering equality is a one way ticket on the train to communism. That’s where images like these find their mainstay: in the seething cesspool of poor logic.

Violence is never funny. I know I’m preaching to the choir here, but it’s just another part of what’s wrong with this picture. If ‘them’ are victim of it, it’s okay, ‘ha-ha’ and they might have deserved it because they asked for it because they were protesting, ungrateful creatures.

You and I seem to have had very different impressions about what the picture means- I didn’t see any comment on government brutality in there, I just heard “harr harr look, that hippie is getting ironically punished for being such a liberal!” (This being said in my ex-boyfriend’s voice, because I’m pretty sure that’s exactly how he’d interpret it). Same amount of thinking that she deserved the pepper spray, but I only saw it as a cruel attack on Occupiers and not any kind of critique of their beliefs.


I thought your takedown was excellent as always, and I’m glad you read deeper into it than I did.

Ohhh.  I think I read further into it because the person who posted it – I really hope he didn’t just think that she deserved it for being a liberal.  It doesn’t make it much better to put ideology behind it but…ugh.

Yeah, both ways it’s pretty gross, but I like the government comment better. The ex-boyfriend and his family whose reactions I’m picturing are not exactly deep thinkers, which is why I believe they wouldn’t progress past schadenfreude and onto thoughts of ideology. I think most people would see it as you did, or at least I hope.

And the underlying argument – that more government equals oppressive government – is sort of broken as well.

I don’t think “small” or “big” government can be categorised as “oppressive” and “non-oppressive”; after all, what is the US now if not oppressive small government? Even if the ‘oppression’ isn’t a truncheon (which, hello, it clearly sometimes is), it can still be an inability to get to University, staggering debt, institutionalised racism, sexism or homophobia. And while giving governments power is obviously not always the road to success, there are plenty of European nations flourishing with eye-wateringly high tax rates and comparatively statist public policy.

We need to detach our stereotypes of what big and small government mean from our prejudices about government. I’m broadly a statist, believing that the government should have a large influence on most parts of life, but I have to be able to look at another situation, another place, and say “hey, yeah, that’s just not practical without X infrastructure”. By the same token, those who naturally believe in smaller government should be willing to engage with the idea that, in education for example, the government has to play a role if a bloody thing’s going to get done.

You are always awesome.  I was kind of trying to get at that with the fact that Republicans say they want small government but it doesn’t always work out that way – it’s about who gets to keep control.  But you say it much better.

Some of the things that I write about don’t – sometimes I have to go fishing.  This one did.  By somebody who’s very thoughtful and nice, who has quite different political views than I do, but – this was a shocker.

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