Katamari Wingnuttery

Mike Huckabee plays an "aw shucks" nice guy who just happens to have bone-ignorant opinions on social issues for most campaign stops, but make no mistake, his recent speech at a gathering of Christian conservatives demonstrated that his opinions on abortion are born more out of mean-spiritedness than homegrown ignorance. His statements were a perfect storm of all sorts of hard-right hobby horses.

"Sometimes we talk about why we're importing so many people in our workforce," the former Arkansas governor said. "It might be for the last 35 years, we have aborted more than a million people who would have been in our workforce had we not had the holocaust of liberalized abortion under a flawed Supreme Court ruling in 1973."

But this column is not about Mike Huckabee's views. Most of the surprise at his statements comes from the astonishment that he made them in public, not at what he believes. This column is about why abortion can't fairly be considered a "single issue" issue, as it's commonly treated, and how it's better characterized as a Trojan Horse for a whole host of right wing-nuttery that has trouble breaking into the mainstream, precisely due to the nuttery factor.

Or actually, the better metaphor might be the video game Katamari Damacy, a game where you play this little dude who rolls up all sorts of things, from candy to toys to pets to cars to people, into a big ball of crap. Trust me, it's more fun than it might seem at first glance. Because a lot of otherwise rational people both have issues with female sexuality and with the sense that abortion is icky, anti-choicers have a sense that abortion is their sticky issue that will get people's attention, and then they can roll up all sorts of other issues into it like it's an abortion katamari. Sometimes they fail at keeping people's attention, and sometimes their radical ideas about banning contraception will just turn people off, but they succeed often enough that it's worth paying some attention to what right wing hobby horses they're trying to attach to the abortion issue. Huckabee's little comment points to some.

The swarthy menace from the South. Irate that someone is speaking Spanish to a friend in front of you in line at the grocery store and you can't understand what he's saying? Blame the sluts of America for the dent in your eavesdropping opportunities. If fornicating women just took their baby-punishment like the good Lord intended, the thinking goes, then we'd have a hefty bastard population to fill our cheap labor needs and wouldn't have to "import" Mexican nationals to do it.

It's hard to gauge how well this idea will go over with the general public. People can be whipped into a racist frenzy fairly easily, on occasion. However, most people probably will not cozy up to the argument that they should have more kids than they can afford to drive down wages, just so that everyone in their family can enjoy the pleasures of sleeping six to a bed. Maybe it would work better if they were reminded that six to a bed supplies the warmth you can't buy in utilities with your brand spanking new $5-a-day wages.

What Holocaust? The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism has a good FAQ sheet on why the constant invoking of the Holocaust as a point of comparison to abortion is so insulting and wrong-headed. Calling abortion a "holocaust" has a twofold purpose, the first being that it implies that 1/3 of American women are genocidal towards their own offspring (not sure how that is supposed to work, but maybe if you think men make babies by themselves and just leave them hanging out in wombs, it makes more sense). The second and also relevant point is that it makes Nazis look like sweet, cuddly teddy bears compared to the whores of America who wish to control their own fertility. And while it's not strictly Holocaust denial, it's close enough to it.

It's hard to understand why so many right wingers see the allure of minimizing the atrocities of the Nazis, but it's worth noting that the Nazi regime was "pro-life," i.e. anti-abortion, and used roughly the same line about how we need to make more of us and have less of them that appeals so strongly to the people raising the connection between abortion and illegal immigration. The appeal of imagining that fornicating American women are worse than Nazis might be a way of reconciling some of those unpleasant comparisons.

Liberals are the real bad guys. A common right wing tactic to distract from their racism is to point to liberals and claim that they're the real racists, that liberal attempts to address poverty are a secret conspiracy to get poor black people dependent on eating and housing, so that we can control them to do our bidding, and that affirmative action programs are secret attempts to hurt black people by LOOK A PONY!

Yeah, the tactic doesn't work very well, but it's hoped that abortion will make the ridiculous story stick. After all, black women get abortions and maybe if you wave your hands hard enough, you can make people believe that liberals are making them do it at gunpoint. A story about how black women are being deprived of the opportunity to be treated like ambulatory wombs doesn't strike me as anything but another stripe of racism, as does the idea that black people are dumb enough to buy the idea that right wingers want to ban abortion out of anti-racist sentiment. One is forced to conclude that the "black genocide" story is one white conservatives tell themselves to give themselves a boost of moral superiority, but that it doesn't really translate into any kind of mainstreaming of their ideas.

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  • invalid-0

    Not to impart any disrespect for the lives lost in Hitler’s death camps, but the Jewish people do not have exclusive rights to use the term “holocaust.” It has since been used to describe the massacre of Africans, American Indians, Armenians, Asians by Japan during WWII, Ukrainians, and the AIDS epidemic.

    And the phrase “nuclear holocaust” is often used to describe what would happen if Dick Cheney ever became president. ;)

  • amanda-marcotte

    Unless it's actual genocide, I think the word is a bad word choice. But with the anti-choice movement, I think it's more than just bad word choice. The right in this country has a long history of trying to conceal that Nazism was a right wing movement, and distract from how the hard right tends to drift towards fascist sentiment. And part of the denial process is covering up the use of reproductive coercion by the Nazis to achieve their genocidal ends.

  • invalid-0

    Jewish people don’t claim to have “exclusive rights” to the term “holocaust” but I agree with your sentiment (though I think your choice of words leaves something to be desired). As a Jewish person, I don’t feel that my ancestors suffering should be exclusively recognized over and above others’ suffering. However, one should be careful of exploiting that word as well…when one group is targeted and systematically wiped off the face of the earth because of race,religion,ethnic group, heritage, culture, etc. we’re talking about a holocaust. When a woman exercises her legal right to make personal decisions about her own body that results in an abortion, one cannot call the results a “holocaust.” The whole comparison is so completely absurd and offensive to me – as a woman and as a Jewish person – that I hesitate to give the argument anymore attention than it’s already been given. That being said, Amanda has done her usual amazing job at targeting the absurdity and audacity of the anti-choice arguments.

  • invalid-0

    But a holocaust doesn’t have to be caused through genocidal actions. A nuclear holocaust would be indiscriminate, killing everyone and everything (except for cockroaches, I hear). Pre-WWII, the term was used to describe the complete destruction of something by fire.

    From Dictionary.com:

    1.a great or complete devastation or destruction, esp. by fire.
    2.a sacrifice completely consumed by fire; burnt offering.
    3.(usually initial capital letter) the systematic mass slaughter of European Jews in Nazi concentration camps during World War II (usually prec. by the).
    4.any mass slaughter or reckless destruction of life.

    And while I agree with you, Amanda, that a lot of right-wing politicos in the US (and other nations) have tried to paint the Nazis as a socialist movement, I think that they could be better described as an authoritarian movement than a conservative one (although you do see a lot of authoritarian tendancies in conservatives).

  • amanda-marcotte

    It's an odd thing to focus on. Sure, it *can* mean those things, but right wingers use it to deliberately evoke the Holocaust-with-a-capital-H. And in doing so, they minimize the atrocities performed by the Nazis and of course try to conceal the fact that they shared anti-choice views with the Nazis as well as the view that forcing Christian white women to procreate is an important part of an overtly racist program.


  • invalid-0

    On a lighter note: Katamari Damacy is freaking awesome. An odd metaphor for how the right wing uses abortion, perhaps, but I get it. They’re trying to stick everything else to it.

    (Also: It’s fun, bizarre, and has a great soundtrack.)

  • invalid-0

    So how did Huckabee vote on SCHIP?

    Maybe his answer is to let _born_ kids die in agony when they get sick or injured.

  • invalid-0

    The nazi’s developed most of the abortion procedures by experimenting on Jewish women.