Vox: WSJ’s ‘Susan Collins Consents’ headline seems like a rape joke

Vox: WSJ’s ‘Susan Collins Consents’ headline seems like a rape joke
U.S. senator explains her consent to a presidential appointment, Oct 2018. YouTube video

If you needed encapsulated evidence of the expanding divergence between the thinking of the hardest political left and the thinking of normal people, this reaction from Vox may do the trick.

The Wall Street Journal responded to Senator Susan Collins’s (R-ME) speech on the Senate floor on Friday with an editorial headline: “Susan Collins Consents.”  Collins spoke at some length about the process and the issues involved, and ended by announcing that she would vote to confirm Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.

It was a fine speech: one of rare quality, into which she had obviously put a lot of work.  If I didn’t find it to be as epic as a number of people apparently did, I thought it was well crafted and impressive.

Vox’s Emily Stewart thought otherwise about WSJ‘s headline.  The entryway to her post on the WSJ op-ed is the shrieking-hinged gate to a Halloween fright house:

“Susan Collins consents”: The Wall Street Journal’s real, terrible Kavanaugh headline

It seems like a rape joke.

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Well, no, it doesn’t.  Susan Collins is a U.S. senator who was speaking on the floor of the Senate about the nomination of an appointed federal official.  My immediate thought on reading the WSJ headline was about the “advise and consent” role of the Senate in presidential appointments.

It didn’t even occur to me to hear a “rape joke” dog whistle in the headline.  It still doesn’t occur to me.  I can ponder it, of course, if prompted to — and under those circumstances, it seems obsessive and bizarre.  For one thing, it’s illogical even on its own terms.  Consent means there isn’t a rape going on.  To hear a “rape joke” in the WSJ headline really is to hear a dog whistle: a noise that resonates in your own head with a particular primal meaning, but doesn’t parse through the logic of thought and language.

Emily Stewart doesn’t suggest she has been a victim of rape or sexual assault, which could at least account for being especially sensitive to the potential for subtextual suggestions in that regard.  We should have every sympathy and compassion for people carrying such a burden in life, and help them where we can to restore a sense of safety, balance, and confidence.

But the left seems determined to cultivate in as many people as possible the perpetual sense that they have been violated, and to hear every noise around them as an ugly, cacophonous echo of the atrocity.  When not enough violation and atrocity are going on, which is most of the time, the left just makes stuff up to fan the flames.

We are not, in fact, supposed to live that way.  Most people can’t bear it for very long, and that’s a positive, healthy thing. There’s nothing righteous or good about reordering our public dialogue to fit the reaction patterns of shell-shocked victims.  That doesn’t make anyone or anything better, any more than turning us all into gang murderers so we can “really understand” where gang murderers are coming from would make anything better.

Ms. Stewart goes on to acknowledge that the WSJ editorial talks about the “advise and consent” role of the Senate, and that the headline was clearly based on that.  She then seems to suggest that since the constitutional formula is “advise and consent,” WSJ‘s editors should have — well, I guess, made the headline “Susan Collins Advises and Consents.”

No.  There is no necessity to have all our patterns of speech and thought controlled by the dysfunctional reactions cultivated into a generation of Americans by our schools and entertainment media.  It’s not just that it isn’t normal to automatically think “rape” no matter what you hear; it’s that it isn’t right.  It’s a terrible evil, that this horrific pattern of thought has been inflicted on so many people, not by their actual experience but by the incessant inculcation of a malign thesis.

People who don’t automatically think in such terms are better off.  To demand that they change their thought patterns to be worse off is insane.

Moreover, no one can ever make his life or the world better by relentlessly studying and adopting the thought habits of evil.  The homely axioms of our parents and grandparents have reflected that reality for centuries — because it is reality.  Where our goal is to make the world better, we should be helping people have positive, productive ways of thinking, not hectoring people to have negative, destructive ones.

The left spends all its air time now doing the latter.  There is no compromising with such a stance.  You can’t agree to submit yourself or society at large to a little bit of institutionalized negativity and destruction, and expect to find an even keel to sail on.  Where the political left is now — hearing dog whistles in everything said by everyone, and demanding an ever-narrowing speech code to ward off the left’s arbitrary charges of “offense” — is not a place we can go part way.

There’s an important reason we know that.  The process of corrupting our societal thought patterns with dog whistles, speech codes, and offense has been underway for decades now, and this is where we are.  Not better off, but deeply divided, with one portion of our people perpetually offended and upset.  It manifestly doesn’t make anything better to buckle down and all hearken to dog whistles.

If you want to know “Why Trump?” — this is why.  People know we can’t remain trapped in the endless do-loop of this destructive pattern.  They’ve seen our political leaders be ineffective against it for a long time now.  Trump breaks the pattern, whether or not you like how he does it.  It’s a pattern that badly needs breaking.

No, it’s not a level of righteousness to aspire to, to hear a “rape joke” in an innocent Wall Street Journal headline.  It must be awful, and especially so if it’s been “educated” into you as if it were righteousness.  Cloaking it deceptively that way makes it harder to break free.  Come out of the darkness, dear brothers and sisters.  Come into the light.

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J.E. Dyer

J.E. Dyer

J.E. Dyer is a retired Naval Intelligence officer who lives in Southern California, blogging as The Optimistic Conservative for domestic tranquility and world peace. Her articles have appeared at Hot Air, Commentary’s Contentions, Patheos, The Daily Caller, The Jewish Press, and The Weekly Standard.


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