Friday, November 27, 2015

Similar fears drive today's college protestors and the disenfranchised right

Trigger Warnings

Posted by Chris Haire on Fri, Nov 27, 2015 at 12:26 PM

Forgive me, if you will, but let me take you back to yesterday. The Carolina Panthers are trouncing the Dallas Cowboys, you hoist yet another beverage as you ponder the average length of a Rockette's leg from the toe to the end of her flesh-colored tights, and your drunken uncle is trying to convince you that the pyramids were actually grain silos. You smell it, right? The tantalizing scent of roasting turkey. 

But that smell has a dark side, a dreary side, a traumatic side. When it comes down to it, the smell of roasting turkey is a trigger warning, a signal that what is about to happen next can conjure up feelings that might make you uncomfortable. 

For some it will be of Thanksgivings past, most notably that time your cousin Jed flipped over the table because Gran Gran forgot to make green bean casserole. Or it could simply be because you are reminded of what transpired after that joyous Thanksgiving Day hundreds of years of ago between the Plymouth Rockers and the Wampanoag: disease, destitution, and decimation. In many cases, this reminder of our shared history of horror is too much to bear. Which is why we need trigger warnings, like the smell of roasting turkey, to help the strong among us to prepare ourselves for what comes next and prompt the weak to head home to Netflix and chill with a tub of Ben and Jerry's and a slightly overweight tabby. 

Hopefully, I'm not the first person to tell you about trigger warnings. They've become rather popular on college campuses these days, and they've been in the news as late. But for those of you who don't know about them, they work like this: your world literature prof has just assigned Ovid's Metamorphoses, a classic work of Western literature that features the rape of the heroine Proserpina. As such, said professor tells students before sending them out of class that the text in question may cause some of them considerable distress, particularly those who suffer from the traumatic experience of sexual assault or molestation. 

Now many have bemoaned the need for trigger warnings, proclaiming that today's college students are far too sensitive. After all, past generations seemed to digest Ovid without any signs of distress.

These same critics are also likely to ridicule the current call for campus safe spaces, places where female, minority, and LBGT students feel comfortable simply being who they are without fear of reprisal from the bro-eds and bleach-blond sorostikas that seemingly dominate campus. 

While it's easy to tell today's safe spacers to just buck up — especially since those that came before them faced far worse harassment and discrimination on campus — the source of their fears are very much real: universities routinely cover up campus rapes, being black itself is sometimes viewed as a crime, LGBT bigotry still continues, and we've got a presidential candidate who is one step away from calling for concentration camps for a particular religious group.

And these threats don't even take into account the dreary world these students face once they graduate, a world of zero to no job prospects, insurmountable student loan debt, unequal wages, endless war, horrible pandemics, and random mass shootings. 

Strangely enough, a very similar fear has been driving the disenfranchised white Right in America since at least Sept. 11, 2001. And while they can always point to a couple of choice anecdotes — a revolving-door drug dealer who murders a newly married white couple in a home invasion or an illegal immigrant who kills a family of five WASPers in a drunk driving accident — few, if any, have faced any real threats other than the regular tongue lashing they receive from their boss, their ice-cold spouses, or the pink elephant in the room that spits oxycontin out of its ethereal head like a prescription Pez dispenser.

Still, the reasons for their concerns are very real and very troubling. After all, they live in a world where the powerful never pay for their crimes, their jobs routinely go overseas while they watch those who engineered the economic collapse land safety on the ground thanks to golden parachutes, and they see government assistance going to people who aren't even legal Americans. And these frightened white Righters are powerless to do anything about it. They are victims, albeit victims of their own orchestrations; after all, they routinely elect leaders who campaign on the promise to deregulate industry, cut taxes for the rich, and strip away funding for government entitlement programs.

Not surprisingly, they gravitate toward those leaders who vow to help them fight back against their perceived attackers, the minorities, the immigrants, and female video-game journalists who are changing the very essence of the America, or at least the Beaver Cleaver hegemony they long for.

But there is a key difference between these two groups: the middle- and lower-class white Right are becoming disenfranchised while the college kids, particularly the young women — minority or otherwise — who are the driving forces in today's protest movement, are being empowered, perhaps for the first time in their lives. The world is theirs for the taking — particularly women who now outnumber men on college campuses — and they’re not afraid to face those who have kept them down. And for that, they should be applauded.

Still, a perpetual war weighs on the soul, even if the fight is noble. The longer you stay in the trenches, the more you risk your sanity. Over time, you begin to see allies as enemies and mistake misguided intentions for sinister conspiracies. And just like that, a preoccupation with trigger warnings has been transformed into a debilitating trigger-happy madness.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Senator proposes internment malls for Syrian refugees

Ham Biscuits, Ham Biscuits, Ham Biscuits

Posted by Chris Haire on Thu, Nov 19, 2015 at 2:35 PM

(Knight-Rider) Washington, D.C. — U.S. Sen. Wyatt Duvall (Slumber Party, S.C.) has unveiled a brash new plan that he believes will allow Syrian refugees to settle in the U.S. and keep a fearful populace at ease. Under Duvall's plan, the federal government will be allowed to purchase any one of the hundreds of vacant malls that litter America's vast suburban landscape and transform them into what the senator calls "family fun zones" complete with food courts, arcades, and perfume kiosks. Duvall's critics, however, have given these areas a name of their own, "interment malls."

"We Americans are a compassionate people, a caring people, a kind people, but we are not a dumb people, at least once you get past the millions of Americans who watch 'Mike and Molly,' 'The Big Bang Theory,' 'Two Broke Girls,' and all of those other horrible Chuck Lorre sitcoms," Duvall said in a speech on the floor of the Senate. "Like Charlie Sheen once said as he threw a couple hundred bucks on the bed at the Bunny Ranch, you gotta keep your friends close and your enemies closer, but you have to keep that bottle of amyl nitrate closest of all ... oh, and by the way, honey, did I tell you I'm HIV positive. Go buy yourself a nice mail-in test for yourself with the tip."

Not surprisingly, Duvall's fellow senators were dumbfounded.

"The point is, we're that hooker, and those Syrian refugees are Charlie Sheen, and terrorism is HIV, and right now, America is barebacking its way to the rear end of days," Duvall added.

While Duvall says that the internment malls will help currently blighted areas and create thousands of new jobs, he believes that supplying the refugees with near-constant amusement and food will not only help them assimilate but assist authorities in weeding out potential threats. "If we see a young man repeatedly return to one of those standup first-person shooters at the arcade again and again, that man will be flagged. The same goes for frequent Lazar Tag arena players," the Slumber Party senator says. "How you play says more about you than anything else, and here in America we don't play like that. You get caught doing that crap repeatedly and it's straight to cleaning up the ball pit at Chuckie Cheese for you. And let me tell you from experience, one day in that urine-soaked hellhole and you'll change your wicked ways."

The senator then mumbled under his breath, "And if that doesn't fix you, then you'll be scrubbing toilets at Casual Male for a week." 

Over time, Duvall believes the interment malls will become thriving little communities of their own and beacons of our nation's charity and the glories of capitalism. One day, even regular, everyday American citizens will return to spend their money. "We are in the midst of a war for the minds of the Muslim word, and we must show them the best that the Great Spencer's has to offer. And I don't know about you, but nothing says 'American values' like a pair of edible panties and a poster of Bob Marley smoking a spliff."

Duvall then turned his attention to his fellow South Carolina senator, Lindsey Graham (R), and said, "And if Chick-fil-A doesn't convert them, then nothing will."

Graham then nodded and said, "Ham biscuits," with lecherous intent. The rest of the Senate followed in kind until the halls of Congress were filled with the cries of "ham biscuits, ham biscuits, ham biscuits."

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Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Stavrinakis lost the election as much as Tecklenburg won it

Ruckus in the Romper Room

Posted by Chris Haire on Wed, Nov 18, 2015 at 1:59 PM

It is impossible to write about John Tecklenburg's victory yesterday without focusing on the actions of the other candidates in the race, specifically Leon Stavrinakis and Ginny Deerin. In fact, you might even be able to go as far as to suggest that T-Burg is now the mayor-elect because of Leon and Ginny and their ill-fated decisions to attack each other.

Going into the 2015 Charleston mayoral race, it was always Stavrinakis' race to lose. He had the most name recognition and the most experience. He had a hefty war chest and a whole host of A-List endorsements, including what seemed like the Holy City's entire Statehouse legislative delegation. He was even polling higher than all the other candidates. But then Deerin ripped the angel wings from her back, picked up a pitchfork, and stuck Stavrinakis in his thin-skinned ass.

And it was then that the Stavrinakis campaign not only took its first misstep, but ran so far away from the campaign trail, Leon couldn't find his way back.

Stavrinakis' so-called Unity press conference was a heavy-handed mic drop featuring a cast of band-aids who would willingly do Leon's bidding, most notably proclaiming that Deerin's attack ad somehow dishonored the Emanuel Nine. The move backfired, and the public saw an ugliness in Leon they hadn't seen before. Strangely enough, all of this came as Stavrinakis was proclaiming that he was above negative campaigning, a charge that would later come back to haunt him.

What's crazy here is that even at this time, Stavrinakis was still polling higher than both Deerin and Tecklenburg, who, smartly, chose to remain out of the fray, except for a moment when he condemned an anonymous smear mailer targeting Deerin and her sexuality.

Whether or not Stavrinakis or one of his supporters was behind the mailer is irrelevant. These type of tactics are common in South Carolina politics, as Will Moredock points out in his column this week. 

  • Dustin Waters file photo
Along the way there was a report that the Stavrinakis camp staged a camera shot so Leon wouldn't be seen exiting his Range Rover and another that his campaign had misquoted one of the speakers at his anti-Deerin Unity presser, a misquote that was evidently so egregious the speaker said she felt "violated."

On Election Night Nov. 7, it got worse. With Stavrinakis and Tecklenburg making the run-off — Deerin was a distant third, with Teck taking the most votes — Leon turned his sights on attacking T-Burg, even going as far as to brand John as a developer and to treat the term as a pejorative, along the lines of calling someone a racist or a child molester. It was yet another mistake, not simply because it wasn't exactly true, but because Leon himself had taken significant amounts of money from developers. 

At this point, it was clear that the Stavrinakis campaign was scared. And his ads and press conferences reflected that. 

This time, he attacked Teck for supporting the West Ashley bridge bike study, a move that angered the progressive crowd, and later by condemning Tecklenburg's membership in the Coastal Conservation League, an esteemed local environmental group whose leader, Dana Beach, is honored year after year by City Paper readers as the Best Community Activist. That Leon somehow thought Tecklenburg's association with the CCL and his willingness to test the hypothesis that closing a bike lane on the West Ashley bridge would do little to affect traffic was an unpardonable sin which caused folks like myself to scratch their heads while the town's greenies seethed with Earth Fare anger. 

And then there was the press conference where Leon debated a empty podium. It was an embarrassingly hackish stunt that didn't so much as point out Tecklenburg's unwillingness to debate Stavrinakis but harkened back to Clint Eastwood's empty chair embarrassment during the 2012 Republican National Convention, arguably the nadir of modern political theater. 

Faced with a challenger who was committing political seppuku right before the public's eyes, all John Tecklenburg had to do was sit back and smile, which was more or less the same tactic he employed when it first threw his hat into the race. 

All of this isn't to say that Teck lacks the right qualifications to be mayor. The guy's got the executive skills and the business smarts to succeed in the office. He's also got a big, people-lovin' heart. Most importantly, he's got the good enough sense to not to get rattled when his teething, temper tantrum-throwing opponent is rattling a rattler in the air like it's a sharpened saber, begging T-Burg to join him in a pillow fight for control of the romper room Diaper Genie.

And that, my friends, is how John Tecklenburg was elected the next mayor of the wonderful, wonderful city of Charleston, S.C.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Slave Chic: WTF is up with Charlie's Unity Issue fashion spread?

The Latest in Jim Crow Fashion

Posted by Chris Haire on Mon, Nov 16, 2015 at 4:44 PM

During my eight years at the helm of the City Paper editorial department, I've authorized a fair number of controversial covers. 

There was our much derided Raccoon Stew cover from this past February, which got the lovers of those vile, rabid little beasties all in torch-and-pitchfork tizzy. 

Then there was June's cover story on the Upstate-based web series Girl from Carolina. Our decision to use a stylized Confederate flag on the cover prompted a few members of the local community to steal several hundred copies and dump them at our front door. 

And who could forget that time way back in 2009 when we created a photo illustration of former U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint performing fellatio on the Washington Monument. OK. That one didn't actually make it to print, at least not in the graphic way we originally intended. 

Of course, there was also that time we ran a frosty beer mug on the cover of our craft beer issue, but the less said about that dust-up the better.

The point is, I understand what it's like to get blowback for putting out a controversial cover. And that's why I'm trying my damnedest to understand what the fuck the staff at Charlie were thinking with their recent Unity Issue.

From what I gather, the issue was designed to show how, in the light of the tragic Mother Emanuel shooting, Charlestonians, both black and white, came together as one community. The Unity Issue was a celebration of that, but more importantly, it was a hopeful message that this feeling can continue, that the racial wounds of our tragically shared past had finally begun to heal. But this cover, um, I can't help but feel makes a mockery of that newfound unity. 


And it only gets worse from there.

And worse.


And worse.

Now, mind you, the above photographs were not for a challenging essay on our past and how white Americans must learn to put themselves in the same place as their African-American brothers and sisters. The photos were not for a Vice-style satirical photo spread mocking today's hipster Dust Bowl wear and all things roots music. They were for a fashion spread, no more no less, complete with information on brand names and where you could buy them. I guess you can call it Slave Chic.

The Charlie staff, however, did offer a reason for their fashion spread. In the intro to the spread, it is written:

On a day in early August, a crew of 20 convened in McClellanville, a fishing village 40 miles outside of Charleston. It's a place were, it seems, time has stopped, so we staged scenes from the early 20th century. Fishers fished, pickers picked, a baptism was performed in the river. Real scenes of the past happened with one difference: desegregation. 

That's a nice sentiment, but it doesn't change the fact that this was a horrible idea. It's one thing to provide a dramatic imaginary rewriting of history in the hope of making us face the sins of the past; it's another thing to create a pastoral Song of the South paradise in order to show off pretty people in pretty clothes. What we have here is a series of photos that celebrates African-American suffering and poverty and cheapens the black experience.

Although slavery and Jim Crow make up our shared past, it was a past that wasn't shared equally, and to somehow act as if it's acceptable to show dead-eyed white models in faux sharecropper clothing, standing alongside equally blank black faces, is a mockery of every man and woman and child who suffered under the lash. 

In the right hands and under the right circumstances, this possibly could have worked. But as it is, Charlie's Unity Issue fashion spread is a misguided mess that mangles American history and attempts to whitewash Charleston's very real sins in a shallow glassy-eyed gloss of faux nostalgia.

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Thursday, November 5, 2015

The strange case of Leon Stavrinakis' Range Rover

Riding Dirty

Posted by Chris Haire on Thu, Nov 5, 2015 at 4:47 PM

Politicians are particularly funny creatures. They may look like you and me, but they're not. In fact, I would be willing to bet they are an entirely separate species, the missing link perhaps between the noble, solitary sasquatch and a Disney Channel sacrificial pop star, our nation's yearly offering to the Old Ones of the Entertainment World, whose horrible wrath can only be appeased by that bewitching combination of stripper-pole sexuality and promise-ring virginity. 

And because they are part-beast, part-pop tart, they must be handled in the way that one would handle a temper-tantrum-throwing puppy or a barking, as-yet-un-house broken toddler — with patience and praise, the latter of which is largely unfounded but a necessary lie that must be spoken in order to bend the creature to your will.

Politicians are fragile beings who need coddling and constant care or else they're liable to injure themselves or someone else, whether through a careless, off-the-cuff remark or a too-firm handshake and/or a slobbery baby smooch, respectively. Everything must be carefully orchestrated. 

I was reminded of this yesterday, when I first heard about a silly little matter involving a cameraman for a local TV station, current Charleston mayoral candidate Leon Stavrinakis, and a Range Rover. It goes like this:

A TV news photog had been tasked with filming Leon for a story, you know pretty standard stuff.

Previously, the cameraman had followed mayoral candidate John Tecklenburg, and in the interest of getting as much footage as possible, the videographer filmed T-Burg getting out of his car. This time, the TV station employee planned to do the same thing, and so he asked, Tyler Jones, the Stavrinakis campaign's communications director, what kind of car Leon drove. The cameraman was told a Range Rover, a type of luxury SUV. Later, however, he was asked by Jones not to film Stavrinakis getting out of the Range Rover. The photog said no, he needed the footage. Jones then walked away phone in hand. When he returned, Jones announced that he was going to pick up Leon.

A short while later, Jones was back, this time with Stavrinakis in a Nissan SUV that Jones owned. At that point, the photog filmed Leon getting out of Jones' car. (Just so you know, I heard about this story secondhand and later confirmed it with the photog in question, whose name I've withheld.)

Now, before you go speculating about all the reasons why the campaign might have felt it was important for Leon to arrive in a Nissan and not a Range Rover, let me tell you that I reached out to them directly. Admittedly, I said that it was a silly question. Some time later, Jones replied,  "Agreed. This is a silly question. It's no secret Leon drives a Range Rover. In fact, he takes his three kids to school in one every morning. But I often drive him to events in my Nissan SUV and that day was no different."

While Jones didn't dispute the report, he didn't offer an explanation for the apparent vehicle switch, which at one time seemed to be very important. 

And then things got really goofy.

OK. That's overselling it. 

Let's just say I received an email from Jones I didn't expect to get.


The body: 



Funny stuff, right. 

Truth be told, this election could use a dose of silliness right now, especially now that this race has begun to turn nasty. In fact, I told Jones himself a few days before the election that the Stavrinakis campaign needed to lighten up because their actions in the homestretch were rather unbecoming, and by that I was referring to that horrible "Unity" press conference attacking Ginny Deerin. It was a misstep in an otherwise flawless campaign, one that was indicative of a certain prickliness on Stavrinakis' part and a win-at-all-costs approach that I personally admired but which I doubt the public appreciated. 

And if you ask me, that misstep, as well as a few others, just might have swung a few votes John Tecklenburg's way, votes that put T-Burg in the unexpected position of being Election Night's winner, although not the next mayor. The two candidates will face off in a runoff on Nov. 17.

Those blunders have continued, most notably when Leon criticized Tecklenfuzz for being a "developer," when Stavrinakis himself has received significant sums from developers.

Heck, if you ask just about anybody, they'll more than happily point out that Leon is the preferred candidate of local developers; after all, both Teck and Deerin stood firm against the Beach Co.'s current Sgt. Jasper plans. Leon, however, is for a compromise between the city, the neighborhoods, and Beach, and in this case, at least among those that are riled up about the proposed development, that means Stavrinakis is pro-Sgt. Jasper.

Of course, none of that changes the fact that it could be argued that John Tecklenburg is a developer of sorts. After all, he works for Clement, Crawford, and Thornhill, LLC, a local real estate company. The firm is part of the team behind the Midtown development, and T-Burg is one of their brokers; his focus is commercial sales and leasing. In fact, you can see the properties he's trying to sell right now on the company's site.

But does that make Tecklenburg a developer? Technically speaking, no.

Brokers broker deals; Teck is an intermediary. Brokers don't really plan high-rises and the like. His employer on the other hand does engage in development.

Of course, it's worth noting that in addition to starting the Southern Oil Co. and heading up the nonprofit organization SC Strong, one of T-Burg's biggest claims to fame is serving as the Riley administration's director of economic development, with a particular focus on Upper King, a revitalization project that has been quite successful but which was also mishandled to such a degree that we currently have a late-night moratorium in effect.

Not surprisingly, Tecklenfuzz refutes Stavrinakis' claims: “Leon stated that I was a developer and that’s not my profession. It’s just not true ... I just don’t know how far they’ll go on putting out information that isn’t true.”

When asked about Tecklenburg's denial and any hypocrisy on Stavrinakis' part, Jones replies, "Leon isn't criticizing John for being a developer. He's simply pointing out that John is trying to make himself out to be an anti-development crusader when that's how he makes a living, even acknowledging it on the bio page for the development company where he's worked for the last fifteen years."

Perhaps Jones has something there, perhaps he doesn't, but it's clear that despite Tecklenburg's opposition to the Sgt. Jasper and a proposal to bring the approval process for new hotel development in Charleston to a halt for a year so that other development can catch up, T-Burg is a still pro-development guy. After all, one of the lynchpins of his newly unveiled five-point-pledge is to push for the revitalization of West Ashley.

What does all that mean? Well, you can figure it out.

As for me, it appears that Tecklenburg's nice-guy image is working quite well while Stavrinakis' actions continue to tarnish his reputation.

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