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Aug 22, 2006

Full Of Macaca


At first, you might not see much connection between the NYT George Allen "macaca" story, and a piece that appeared later that week about facial profiling at airports.  The link is that, ultimately, both stories have to do with reading faces.

More power to You Tube.  What The Times article and apologist headline (Verbal Gaffe From A Senator, Then An Apology) try to pass off as a "verbal gaffe" is easy to see in the video as an ugly slur.  More than that, however, what the video really captures is a larger facet of Allen's psychological make-up.

One of my favorite subjects is the interpretation of facial gestures.  A few years back, this practice was recognized as one aspect of a new psychological concept called "emotional intelligence."  The aim of the construct -- framed as a vital social capacity -- was to encourage people, especially children, to recognize emotional states and traits both in themselves, and others.  (Unfortunately, the impetus to promote the concept seems to have come and gone.)

At The BAG, we spend a lot of time looking at body language as an expression of character, disposition or motive.  To the extent we've looked at faces, however, its had more to do with the editorial act of framing a figure in a particular way.  Just as fair, however, is the study of characteristic or typical facial gestures (especially in figures we are all familiar with) as a vehicle to map specific aspects of personality.


If you're interested in non-verbal behavior, I recommend you watch this video once with sound, then one more time with the sound off.  Because, this example -- as a quick study in taunting (and "egging on") -- is more informative outside the words.

When you watch, notice Allen's interest in working himself up.  Also, observe how, given the instinct to dominate, the Senator seems to get so little satisfaction out of it.  The guy in this video -- trapped in the psychic shadow of his legendary and disciplinary father, who can't get through two sentences without interjecting some testosterone-infused football metaphor -- is one angry man, apparently ever compensating for some deep inner inferiority.

"My friend with the yellow shirt,  Macaca, over here."
"So, let's give a welcome to Macaca."
"Welcome to America, the real world of Virginia."

I understand it's a brief example, but this is what sadism looks like.

You can view the video at Wonkette.

(image: wonkette via you tube)


The Southern racist culture is more confident than I have ever seen it. To say such a thing knowing he's speaking directly to a video recorder is evidence of that confidence. The South is rising.

Allen will be raising money for his campaign this week ... US President George W. Bush will be the star attraction . . . Wednesday at an event at the Alexandria, Virginia home of Ed Gillespie, the former Republican National Committee chairman. With no video cameras just imagine what they can say then. Perhaps a mock lynching before the meal?

Shame. Absolute.

It's all the more creepy taking place in what appears to be the middle of a grove of trees. One could easily imagine someone stepping forward with a rope. I hope that young man has a couple of friends with him.

I didn't know who this guy George Allen was before now. Seems like an arrogant, insufferable racist asshole.

Noticed on that NYT article that I should stop pressing my lips together in anger and determination when I fly. Anyone not feel angry and determined when they go through security at the airport?

Related: check out this item from yesterday's Democracy Now!

Is the Southern racist culture really more confident, as mugatea writes, or just more desperate to cling on to its dwindling power as America's racial demographics change? George Allen is a racist bully who is so insecure that he harasses nonwhite college kids to make himself feel important. The only thing more pathetic than that is the fact that the similarly racist white voters in Virginia will probably vote him back into office, despite his disgraceful behavior. The ugly look on George Allen's face and the angry way he's pointing at Sidarth remind me of the photographs of jeering whites during the early years of the civil rights movement.


Senator Allen starts "My friends, we're gonna run this campaign on positive, constructive ideas …", then demonstrates the positive constructive notion of a sitting US Senator trying to intimidate a 20 year old college student.

I'm sure his father the Coach stared down some pretty formidable men. And his opponent stood some fiercely contested ground in combat near Danang if we were to look at the medal citations accompanying his Navy Cross, Silver Star, two Bronze Stars, and two Purple Hearts. So Senator Allen is under a little pressure.

The Senator's language is every bit as twisted as the Senator's joyless smiles. "My friend with the yellow shirt …" is not his friend. "My friends, we're in the midst of a war on terror …" are his friends. Or they pretend to be.

George looks a little like a young Jerry Falwell and has a similar delivery cadence at times. Looks straight into the. What does anyone make of the dismissive twirly pointing finger gesture that conflicts with what I take to be his fear.

It's a non-friendly smile even when facing his faceless, shadowed baseball-capped "real Virginians." His is more of a snarl than a smile. The snarl of a frightened dog. Frightened George is "barking". Barky-bark. "Mah kaw kaw." Macaw? Tropical bird?

One ignores something one is not afraid of. And of all the things to call a stranger "makakah" is an odd one. Why not call him "Bob" or "Willy" or "Jim". The impromptuness of this selection and it's alienness to American English seems distancing. It's made up but of what? Let's see, 3 syllables, sounds like "my caca" as in baby talk for shite. Close to "Mecca". How would frightened George spell it?

There was a lynch mob sitting just not far under the surface waiting for Chicken George to say "Let's go get this outsider boys!" to swing into action. Wonder where the ladies were in the crowd if there were any?

Marysz has a great point. This sentiment is getting bolder as more dinos like this guy tremble at the fading of the White. It's sad. And it would be funny how bad they are at hiding it...but it's not. The BAG is right. This guy reeeeeeks of hate, testosterone, and sadism. (Which, by the way, is a new fragrance by CK).

Arrogance and ignorance make for a deadly mix. Of course the irony is that Allen says "Welcome to America, the real world of Virginia", but isn't he from California? The Southerners had a word for that, carpetbaggers!

I am amazed at one of the excuses in his "defense" is that he had no idea what the term meant. Another blog laughingly referred to it as 'speaking in tongues'. Words come out of his mouth that he seems to have no control over. What a maroon!

The thought occurred to me before, but I didn't mention it. Now I see no one else has either, so I'll just out with it: he obviously wanted to make fun of (read: demean) a muslim name and caught himself. It's worth noting how easily it flowed and how he managed to pronounce it the same way three times. If he had his shirt off I'd mistake him for a professional wrestler.

I got the sense I was was back in High School, dealing with the same group of fag-bashers I delt with everyday rallying behind their leader. When confronted, I always got the sense their leader/spokesman was allways staring at a spot about 2 feet behind my head. There was never any actual eye contact on their part and each insult was followed by a quick glance around to assure the team was still backing him up. Allen stares TOWARDS Sidarth, not at him.

Picking on a singular man of color, in front of an all white audiance, in the part of VA that borders Kentucky seems a similar context to beating the crap out of the schools only faggot when the teachers are nowhere to be seen. The bully is dependent on the adulation and consent of his supporters. He is unwilling to truely interact with his victim. The entire exercize is carried on only for the benefit of the crowd and the reification of the social order. Thats what Allens body language reminds me of, a bully whos power is dependent on the opression and supression of the "other".

Or maybe I just have issues *I* need to work through. Anyone else get this?

And another thing. The hand motions, the finger poked repeatedly in Sidarth direction. Assuming Sidarth = proxy for Webb the subtext is "This is what we are fighting. My opposition is supported by THIS kind of person (Dark, ethnic, possibly a terrorist of some kind)".

And what about Allens constant jew-bating. C'mon, we all know what he REALLY means in his repeated attacks on "Hollywood Moguls" and "media elites".

Although the media picked up on "macaca," the "welcome to America" was more disturbing to me.

The NEW America! (Old America?)

marysz: Thanks for the link to the telling photo of the 60s-era jeering whites. You are right that the same emotion is expressed in both! The emotion is disgust (check out this cartoon or this for a very clear representations of disgust.)

Psychologists who study disgust propose that it is an innate emotional response to that which is viewed as impure or polluted. Disgust is universally evoked by disease, bodily fluids and death--eg, pus, maggots, feces, dead bodies, vomit and so on. But in addition, many societies construe certain people to be impure or polluted (the untouchables in India, gypsies in Europe, African Americans in the old south): Contact with them is taboo, contaminating. This is certainly one facet of racism (power is another.)

So here we have George Allen, publicly leaking disgust towards a person of color. Some of us have said for a long time that Republicans are "racist", but rarely does one get such a clear shot.

But at the same time, the reading I have done on disgust recently gives me pause. While disgust/racism is a learned cultural thing, the emotion of disgust is an innate response, and all humans all experience it. Within the US, liberals have been trying to stamp out racism against people of color since the '60s, with more or less success. We've seen racism/disgust morph from one group to another. It used to be openly directed at African-Americans, now it is directed at pro-choice feminists, liberals, gays and the French. The emotion seems to be spilling over to Muslims.

I am beginning to wonder if it is possible to eradicate this need to construe some group in ones society as inferior, polluted and contaminating. Perhaps the best we can do is help define who will be the outcast group. In a way, Northern liberals have tried to define the outcast group as "white males" and "southern rednecks" but that hasn't worked out too well. I may be disgusted by a white male southern "redneck" like Allen (or GWB), but their kind are prospering in the new south.

Isn't it possible that what really empowered these racist southerners is the way our dear leader reacted during the NOLA tragedy. He all but said, they're all blacks, let'em swim. Ummm......wasn't that another of Allen's comments, that blacks can't swim. Guess he was thinking about the absence of black kids in the swimming pools back in the good old days. This might also be an example of the damage fathers can visit upon their sons. I'm so tired of weak and damaged men blustering their way to the top of the dung heap.

I didn't see the video (dialup dontcha know) but do remember something Randi Rhodes said; that macaca is a French word for monkey and is used as a racial slur in the NW part of Africa, from which Allen's French-African mother comes. Seems Mr. Allen knew exactly what he was saying and meant it to be a racial slur.

I think NrkeyQueer has it exactly.

The intent was clear, even if the public circumstances created trouble for Allen. Man of power beating on weaker single person. And this is reflection of what the rich white folks are re-achieving under the Bush dynasty-- consolidation of power.

Using that power to keep the poor folks down. And the dark-skinned folks, and women, and the non-Christians, and the liberals and the queers. It is all about Power.

Allen knew exactly what he was saying when he used that word, whether it was relating to monkeys, to baby shit, to North Africa, to association with Mecca and what-all else. No doubt he's used the word before, in private.

I concur with NrkeyQueer's analysis. Having grown up in the South as a kid, Allen's demeanor was familiar. But there's something a bit off on a tangent from the photo analysis I think is important. Allen has adopted or fallen in love with Southern culture, but remains in some ways an outsider. The rap on Allen from Virginians wasn't so much that he's a racist, but stupid. The "stupid" warrants closer inspection.

Webb's supporter making a video was probably seen by Allen as being dissed, that is, somehow an insult to his honor. Allen, close student as he is, knows that insults to honor must be met. Many Virginians might have forgiven him the incident, but the lame apologies they couldn't because it made Virginians the fools. In other words he brought dishonor to the State. That so many Virginia newspapers editorialized about the incident, it seems to me was evidence that a breech of the Southern Code of honor had been made. Allen showed that he values his honor above that of the honor of Virginians. It revealed him as an "outsider" someone who just doesn't get it.

Had Allen said, "I made a racist remark in anger and regret the harm it has caused." The story might have received national attention, but probably wouldn't have hurt him much. Dissembling as he has, the incident has hurt him among Virginia voters.

big up to di one cactus on a di dial up.
You really need to see it, I had not before this and it changed my perspective from the copy I read. YouTube, changing every 'ting.

PTate'r > "bodily fluids and death--eg, pus, maggots, feces, dead bodies, vomit and so on."
Whoa, that's some visual. And it works. A potent verbal concoction. Tho at the end of your post I'd say, as I think you do, they aren't rednecks, they are right out of your local Country Club.

As a teenager, I had friends who belonged to a Country Club outside of Chicago, the burbs. I was invited all summer to the Club. I'm a gringo, as white as notebook paper, during the summer more like un-bleached parchment. Our good friend of Nigerian descent could only be a guest once a year, it was whispered. And it was an event that one day he was there. "Egads, William, cover the children's eyes, that negro thinks he's Arthur Ashe." "Who's account is he signing on?"

NQ > I get it, well said. Nice post. Don't take that the wrong way.
; )

Fear. That's what he shows beyond the disgust and the gameshow host smile. Acute racism as ego fear that the self (persona) may become lost in other. The person with the camera represents a threat of negative publicity, and of expoure. The reference to Hollywood mogols (the ultimate others, beings composed only of eyes and mouths) betrays his generally fearful attitude. When such -others- look at each other it goes both ways, both looking at the prospect that they may depend for survival (physical or emotional) on a group to which they do not belong (identify). That's a morbid condition for the ego. The racial epithet is a personally revealing reference with respect to his upbringing, according to Randie Rhodes on Air America Radio. (I haven't cross checked her claim) and I suspect he draws on it extemporaneously as he struggles to comport himself as powerful when in fact he's shuffling around the countryside struggling arbitrarily to fit in. Given a threat, and the camera is always intimidating, we attempt to shore ourselves up within our group. A childish posture which becomes unnecessary with confidence born of experience. I like the observation (above) that Allen is struggling for authenticity with his electorate, fearing himself to be other to the people from which he wants a vote. He is also struggling with authenticity of being an adult. Bullying is a very natural reaction to constant fear. And fear is a very natural reaction to domination, and scales with ignorance. His racism is not connected to classism, or rank. Ignorant is the descriiptor I would use, rather than stupid. This guy is pure American white underbelly. There are a million of him.

I don't keep up with the politics of Virginia, but I lived in Northern Virginia, which is more a part of metropolitan Washington than it is part of this world... George Allen's not very popular around there, is he?



Come on, give it a break.
I don't think much of this clown myself, but has ANYONE ever heard of 'Macaca' being used derogatorily towards Indians (or anyone else)?
It seems to me to be obviously made-up.

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