Fashion Critic, Critique Thyself

Rachael Ray Scarf Says Terrorist, But Michelle Malkin Jacket Says Gay:

A Leather Jacket, for the clueless, is the traditional jacket of Gay leather men that has come to symbolize the homosexual jihad against our values. Popularized by Glen Hughes of the Village People and a regular adornment of Gay liberationists appearing in pride parades and Queen videos, leather has been been mainstreamed by both ignorant and not-so-ignorant fashion designers, celebrities, and RIGHT WING INTERNMENT OF JAPANESE-AMERICANS-DEFENDING PUNDITS.

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Malkin

Malkin's actual blog entry seems a lot more calm and measured than the parody suggests. Curiously, the expected direct link from the parody to the thing parodied appears absent: instead, the reader is given links to other pages which in turn refer to Malkin's comments. This raises the suspicion that the parody-writer didn't actually read the entry in question, and this in turn explains the curious mismatch between original and parody.

What can we preserve of the implied criticism? Well, we need to discard the implication that Malkin is hyperventilating or paranoid - we need, really, to discard quite a lot of the parody. What we're left with is the argument, implied by the parody, that it is unreasonable to interpret an item of clothing as symbolic. Well, this is just plainly false. In many cases it is perfectly reasonable to interpret an item of clothing as symbolic. So what is really left? Maybe this: it is unreasonable to interpret that particular item of clothing as symbolic.

Well, no to this as well. If you simply google "keffiyeh", you will find a lot of web pages, and a lot of these plainly leftist and/or sympathetic to the Palestinian political cause, acknowledging that the keffiyeh is symbolic.

Okay, what's really left? Maybe this: even though the keffiyeh is indeed symbolic, it is unreasonable to interpret Rachael Ray's keffiyeh as symbolism, because clearly she did not intend anything political by it.

Well, no to this as well. Many who sport Che Guevara's head have no idea what it symbolizes or who Che Guevara was. They would probably be shocked to discover that they were memorializing a sadistic mass murderer. Nevertheless, those who wear this clothing are not above reproach.

Okay then. What's really, really left? How about this: if the keffiyeh is a political symbol, then by the same token a leather jacket is a gender symbol. Except, of course, the leather jacket has rather a long history of being in the American public eye and some strong pre-existing symbolism for Americans which must be swept under the rug in order to push the association with homosexuality. The keffiyeh does not.

Furthermore, a much stronger claim is being pushed by the parody than that Malkin is wrong about the keffiyeh. The much stronger implied claim is that she is not merely wrong, but absurd, laughable - that is to say, not just wrong but unreasonable, and not just unreasonable but far from reasonable, worthy of derision.

I think not.

Well, we need to discard the

Well, we need to discard the implication that Malkin is hyperventilating or paranoid

Have you ever actually read anything written by Malkin?

Yes

I have read quite a bit by Malkin (though whenever she focuses on immigration - which is a lot - then my interest wanes), but most of that is irrelevant. What is relevant is that I read the particular blog entry in question. It is pretty tame, when contrasted to the impression of it that reverberates within the left wing echo chamber.

Malkin's first instinct is that Ray is "clueless" - i.e., entirely unaware of the political meaning of the keffiyeh. She wants to wait and see. Later on she accepts the apology and retraction, demonstrating that in this instance she is more forgiving and reasonable than, say, the colleagues of James Watson who tossed him on his ear (and those who cheered them on).

It is pretty tame, when

It is pretty tame, when contrasted to the impression of it that reverberates within the left wing echo chamber.

Is Reason's Hit&Run left wing? That's where I first heard about the the Rachel Ray keffiyeh non-controversy controversy.

You frequently object to overly sensitive political correctness, but seem to have no problem with overly sensitive Islamaphobia. Curious, that. Right-wing oversensitivity = okay, Left-wing oversensitivity, not so much.

What is "unreasonable" and paranoid about Malkin is that she created this controversy in the first place.

And even assuming any resemblance to a kaffiyeh, which isn't entirely clear in the first place (certainly not in the same way a Che Guevara t-shirt is), there is this:

Amahl Bishara, an anthropology lecturer at the University of Chicago who specializes in media matters relating to the Middle East, said complaints about the scarf’s use in the ad demonstrate misunderstandings of Arab culture and the multiple meanings that symbols can take on depending on someone’s perspective.

“I think that a right-wing blogger making an association between a kaffiyeh and terrorism is just an example of how so much of the complexity of Arab culture has been reduced to a very narrow vision of the Arab world on the part of some people in the U.S.,” Bishara said in a phone interview. “Kaffiyehs are worn every day on the street by Palestinians and other people in the Middle East — by people going to work, going to school, taking care of their families, and just trying to keep warm.”

Which in turn shows what is wrong with your previous comment,

if the keffiyeh is a political symbol, then by the same token a leather jacket is a gender symbol. Except, of course, the leather jacket has rather a long history of being in the American public eye and some strong pre-existing symbolism for Americans which must be swept under the rug in order to push the association with homosexuality. The keffiyeh does not.

Except, of course, the keffiyeh (again, assuming that's what this is and not just a scarf) has rather a long history of being in the Arab public eye and some strong pre-existing symbolism. You and Malkin are reading your own meaning into this scarf in exactly the same way that advocates of political correctness read racism into the things you dismiss as obvious overreaction.

Keffiyeh keffiyeh

Is Reason's Hit&Run left wing? That's where I first heard about the the Rachel Ray keffiyeh non-controversy controversy.

Libertarians are a diverse group. Some are more left-leaning than others, so it could be.

You frequently object to overly sensitive political correctness, but seem to have no problem with overly sensitive Islamaphobia. Curious, that. Right-wing oversensitivity = okay, Left-wing oversensitivity, not so much.

But you don't consider the left-wing oversensitivity to be oversensitivity. Meanwhile you do consider the supposed right-wing oversensitivity to be oversensitivity. So you don't actually believe the parallel that you're arguing from. You don't believe what you yourself are saying.

Here's how I examined Michelle's remarks: I googled "keffiyeh" different ways. I did a straight search, and I also did a blog search because blog searching allows me to restrict the results to pages older than a certain date (that way the result wouldn't be affected by the Malkin/Ray controversy). I wanted to get a general impression of whether the keffiyeh is indeed a political symbol in the US. And what I found was that, clearly and undeniably, it most definitely is. I encourage you to try something similar. So, what I concluded was that Malkin is right.

I was ready for either result. I reject any number of things that Malkin says, especially when she talks about anything in the vicinity of immigration and immigrants and foreigners. In this case, I found that she's right.

And I similarly investigated Watson's remarks. You can of course insinuate that my judgment is affected by bias. However, accusations of bias really do not constitute an effective argument.

What is "unreasonable" and paranoid about Malkin is that she created this controversy in the first place.

Okay, so you object to creating the controversy, but that is a separate issue from whether she is in fact right about the symbolism of the keffiyeh. If you look at my comments, you will see no point where I endorsed her suggestion of a possible boycott of Dunkin' Donuts. I was addressing the factual question about the symbolism of the keffiyehs, which is what the parody you linked to was addressing.

Except, of course, the keffiyeh (again, assuming that's what this is and not just a scarf) has rather a long history of being in the Arab public eye and some strong pre-existing symbolism.

We're not in Arabia, we're in the west, and we're in the United States. I encourage you to do the googling I describe. The swastika has a long history, reaching back centuries, of being in the public eye in certain foreign lands, but if you see a swastika spray-painted on some wall somewhere in an American city, it's entirely reasonable to treat it as a symbol of Nazism. As a matter of fact the swastika was selected by Hitler for much the same reason that the keffiyeh was selected by supporters of the Palestinian cause. As Wikipedia reports:

Following the Nordicist version of the Aryan invasion theory, the Nazis claimed that the early Aryans of India, from whose Vedic tradition the swastika sprang, were the prototypical white invaders.

So the Nazis adopted the swastika because they thought it was already long-associated with the conjectured Aryan past. And similarly with the keffiyeh:

Increased sympathy and activism by certain Westerners toward Palestinians in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict in the years of the Oslo Peace Accords and Second Intifada have led to the wearing of keffiyehs as a sign of their solidarity with Palestine and the Palestinian people. For example, the slang "keffiyeh kinderlach" refers to young left-wing Jews, particularly college students, who sport a keffiyeh around the neck as a political/fashion statement.

Admittedly, the above-quoted paragraph only says that the keffiyeh was adopted as a political symbol without saying explicitly that it was because of the pre-existing associations, but I think this is obvious enough as is. So the supporters of the Palestinian cause adopted the keffiyeh because they thought it was already associated with the Palestinians. Both symbols, therefore, became political symbols precisely because they had already been (or been thought to be) associated with a certain group of people.

But you don't consider the

But you don't consider the left-wing oversensitivity to be oversensitivity.

Says who? Just because you and I may not agree on a case by case basis doesn't mean I don't think such a thing as left-wing oversensitivity exists.

I googled "keffiyeh" different ways.

Again, let me just quote my previous post again:

Amahl Bishara, an anthropology lecturer at the University of Chicago who specializes in media matters relating to the Middle East, said complaints about the scarf’s use in the ad demonstrate misunderstandings of Arab culture and the multiple meanings that symbols can take on depending on someone’s perspective.

Which is more reliable: googling a bunch of blog reactions, or asking an expert? How reliable is googling when most of the results are influenced by and in turn influence each other, especially influenced by the entity in question: Malkin.

An expert in the wrong thing

Which is more reliable: googling a bunch of blog reactions, or asking an expert?

I already pointed out why his expertise is in this case irrelevant. Apparently you did not understand my argument...? For starters, the United States is not in the Middle East, so an expert in the Middle East has no special authority when it comes to saying what things symbolize in the United States. Did you not understand that point? Was I not explicit enough? And did you not understand the analogy with the swastika? An expert in foreign cultures might say much the same thing about the swastika that Mr. Bashara says about the keffiyeh - about its multiple meanings in foreign lands. And he might very well be right. But he would not thereby show that it was erroneous to view a swastika, tattooed on an American's arm or spray painted onto an American wall, as Nazi.

For starters, the United

For starters, the United States is not in the Middle East, so an expert in the Middle East has no special authority when it comes to saying what things symbolize in the United States.

This is part of the problem. People in the United States are misinterpreting what the symbol means in the Middle East. It is still a symbol "of the Middle East," not of the West, so it might be important to figure out what it actually means in its land of origin, not what misinformed Americans think it means.

But he would not thereby show that it was erroneous to view a swastika, tattooed on an American's arm or spray painted onto an American wall, as Nazi.

And you have not shown that it was erroneous to view a black leather jacket as gay. Which was the point of the original parody.

People get to define their own symbols

People in the United States are misinterpreting what the symbol means in the Middle East.

People in the United States who deliberately don the keffiyeh as a symbol of their support for the Palestinian cause are making it into a political symbol regardless of what it means elsewhere.

And you have not shown that it was erroneous to view a black leather jacket as gay.

You seem to believe that it's erroneous - if it's not erroneous, then what's the point of the parody? If Malkin is actually inadvertently wearing a symbol of male homosexuality, then that's what she's doing. You tell me. The parody seems to fall apart as humor if it's not erroneous to view the black leather jacket as gay. It's certainly conceivable that Malkin might inadvertently wear a symbol of something.

You seem to believe that

You seem to believe that it's erroneous - if it's not erroneous, then what's the point of the parody?

That people get to define their own symbols, and that we shouldn't be too quick to judge what political meaning, if any, is attached to any given symbol. Sometimes a black and white scarf is just a black and white scarf, not a symbol intrinsically in support of terrorism. And sometimes a black leather jacket is just a black leather jacket, and not a symbol of gay subculture.

Platitude

we shouldn't be too quick to judge what political meaning, if any, is attached to any given symbol

But that's just a platitude which fails to give us guidance on specific symbols. It fails to rebut Malkin's particular judgment in this case precisely because it gives no guidance. "Too quick" tells us nothing about how quick is too quick.

What evidence did Malkin

What evidence did Malkin have that the scarf in question was even a keffiyeh and not just a black and white scarf? What evidence did Malkin have that if this was a keffiyeh and not just a black and white scarf, that it meant anything in particular? Where does Malkin get off interpreting the scarf negatively as a symbol of terrorism and not either as a neutral symbol with no political ramifications, or a positive symbol?

Making the assumptions Malkin did is completely ridiculous - about as ridiculous as accusing Malkin of being a closeted Gay liberationist.

Edit: And how is what I said any more of a platitude than what you said (and I agreed with): "People get to define their own symbols." That's exactly what I'm saying. It follows from that fact that people get to define their own symbols that symbols are not some objective fact that can be decided by appeal to some mathematical proof, but are socially constructed. It further follows that we might want to be careful before interpreting someone else's clothing choices as symbolic in some negative way unless we have good reason to do so. Malkin did not have good reason to do so. Malkin was an oversensitive ass hat.

Separate question

What evidence did Malkin have that the scarf in question was even a keffiyeh and not just a black and white scarf?

That's a separate question. If you want to do a parody of that, then you need to show Malkin in something which might or might not be a leather jacket and assume that it's a leather jacket. That might even be funny. But it wouldn't be the actual parody that I was commenting on.

What evidence did Malkin have that if this was a keffiyeh and not just a black and white scarf, that it meant anything in particular?

Well, you can email her and ask her. If the question you're asking is what evidence did Malkin have that Rachael Ray deliberately wore that item for a particular symbolic reason, remember that Malkin explicitly stated that she didn't believe it was deliberate. It would be unfair to ask for evidence of something she didn't believe and didn't say.

Where does Malkin get off interpreting the scarf negatively as a symbol of terrorism and not either as a neutral symbol with no political ramifications, or a positive symbol?

Where does anyone get off interpreting anything as anything? And yet we do, regularly.

Making the assumptions Malkin did is completely ridiculous

Well, isn't that pretty much I've been saying you haven't really presented much of a case for?

No, Constant, it's not a

No, Constant, it's not a separate question. It's the primary reason why so many people found Malkin's response laughable. It's not at all clear that the scarf in question is a keffiyeh and not just a regular black and white scarf. Malkin is attributing a ton of meaning to an article of clothing that most observers simply don't see. She is being oversensitive, just like the PC people you so love to mock.

If the question you're asking is what evidence did Malkin have that Rachael Ray deliberately wore that item for a particular symbolic reason, remember that Malkin explicitly stated that she didn't believe it was deliberate.

This goes directly to what you said earlier in this thread: "People get to define their own symbols." Meaning doesn't arise out of pieces of cloth in some objective, intrinsic process. People ascribe meaning to things. Clearly, Malkin would look even more ridiculous if she accused Rachel Ray of intentionally supporting a political cause, because then people would ask what evidence Malkin has to make such an accusation. So Malkin essentially admits that Rachel Ray may be clueless, but yet still thinks the scarf in question has some intrinsic meaning that is clear to everyone (except Rachel Ray). But what justification does she have for making this claim? Malkin is, as you said, free to define her own symbols and ascribe her own meaning to the scarf, but then no one else is obligated to agree with her definitions. We can all simply point and laugh at her ridiculousness, and make the same sort of over-the-top, overly sensitive attributions of value to Malkin's own flamboyant leather jacket.

Enough

I'm letting you have the last word.

Hell just froze.

Hell just froze.

Brrr...

Better put on a jacket. Maybe a scarf, too.

And thus make a strong

And thus make a strong statement against the heterosexual Zionist oppression.

To add something meaningful to the conversation, in France, wearing the keffiyeh is and has been for decades very strongly associated with the left-wing (not so much the communists but rather the brainless social-democratic "humanitarian" mainstream left-wing). In fact, most left-wing personalities always sport a large scarf wrapped around the neck (keffiyeh or not). It is really meaningful.

On the other hand, ass far as I'm concerned, I associate the leather jacket with Marlon Brando, aviators or rock'n roll - not gayness.

keffiyeh

"It's not at all clear that the scarf in question is a keffiyeh and not just a regular black and white scarf. "

Sure looks like a keffiyeh in the picture. Do a google image search on keffiyeh. Same fringe, same two tone color with same tones, same border pattern, etc.

DD claimed it was paisley but theirs no reason you can't make the pattern of kiffiyeh with paisley worked in somewhere. None of the pattern showing was paisley and it had the standard kiffiyeh style patterns.

There is such a thing as terrorist chic and it's not just kiffiyehs but also t-shirts with Palestinians brandishing rifles and machine guns. Often sold by the same company along side each other. So this is not some symbolism that Malkin invented herself.