Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Deathstork #11

Just based on this cover, I know this Creeper is five bershillion times better than Nocenti's Creeper.

There's this thing people do where they tell other people words that they're not allowed to say. Sometimes the person is shouted down for being gross and problematic while other times the person reacts appropriately (determined by the angry people) and is let off with a warning and some side-eye (but they're never really in the clear ever again). Mostly it's a ritual to make a person feel like they're actively participating in making the world a better place. But the real truth of the matter is that people will always call other people derogatory names. Not because they don't know that they shouldn't but because they hate the other people and don't give a fuck what anybody else thinks. This is why there's such a thing as the euphemism treadmill. That's a phrase coined by Stephen Pinker to describe how a perfectly neutral word for something eventually comes to be used to describe people in a derogatory manner. Subsequently, the previously neutral term must be updated to shed the now negative connotation associated with the word. Obviously the new phrase will eventually be picked up by assholes and used in a derogatory manner. This causes people to think up a new neutral phrase and so on. An easy example of this is in the use of the word retard. Even if that word is completely retired, it's only a matter of time before the phrase "intellectually disabled" becomes more hurtful than simply descriptive. I'm not saying it isn't right to try to avoid being a dick or that using language can't be hurtful and knowingly used to harm! My narrative voice certainly makes it seem like I'm against changing our vocabulary but I was just being snarky to poke fun at the people who really fucking make a career of it. Anyhow, this is just the preface for something else I'd like to discuss. I will be using the term nigger in the next few paragraphs because it's essential to my point and not because I couldn't wait to find an excuse to say it. My point is that there is something going on in conservative media which needs to be called out for what it is.

People who know they shouldn't use offensive terms but still use them will never stop using those offensive terms just because other people tell them to stop. They will stop for one reason only: because the use of the word actually results in negative consequences. Here is a quote by Lee Atwater from the dog-whistle politics entry on Wikipedia:

You start out in 1954 by saying, "Nigger, nigger, nigger." By 1968, you can't say "nigger" — that hurts you. Backfires. So you say stuff like forced busing, states' rights and all that stuff. You're getting so abstract now [that] you're talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you're talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is [that] blacks get hurt worse than whites. And subconsciously maybe that is part of it. I'm not saying that. But I'm saying that if it is getting that abstract, and that coded, that we are doing away with the racial problem one way or the other. You follow me — because obviously sitting around saying, "We want to cut this," is much more abstract than even the busing thing, and a hell of a lot more abstract than "Nigger, nigger."

Atwater readily admits that the change of behavior (a change you still see as the basic building blocks of the GOP) is due only because the language has become so unacceptable by the populace that the person saying it loses support. But like the euphemism treadmill, changing the language doesn't change the message or the asshole nature of the person using the abusive language. Those people will try to hide in plain sight but they can never actually succeed completely. They need a way to vent their hatred and anger. Which finally brings me to the word that, in today's climate, identifies the racist: thug.

If you don't know who David Duke is, bless your ignorance.

Thug is thrown around constantly these days with a wink and smile. It's the currently acceptable way of saying nigger and people using it need to be called on it. As an added bonus of winks and smiles and elbow nudges, you'll note that racist David Duke expects readers to understand that "decent Americans" means white people. This is the current narrative being seen on channels like Fox News and dining rooms across the country. To some of you, this is the most obvious thing in the world and you've probably been angrily rolling your eyes at the word for years now. But I wanted to talk it through a bit because I know, from my own family's posts on Facebook, that there are way too many people who find it way too easy to call Black Lives Matters protesters "thugs" while never seeming to use that word in any other context ever (except maybe if they're reading an old Batman comic book).

Call it out when you here it. Point it out to your family. Don't let the racists get away with normalizing this word.

Dammit, DC! Maybe get a new model for your Thug Heroclix!

The Review!
This issue begins like this:

Dammit, Deathstork! I don't have the energy to rant about guns now!

When I say "rant about guns," of course I mean it as much as when I say I want to "rant about dogs." It's not really the guns or the dogs I wind up ranting about. It's the gun and dog owners who are always the huge idiots that need a verbal wedgie. Although this first page ties in a bit with my thug rant (and not in the way you think if you're thinking what I think you're thinking, you racist piece of rat excrement). Smoking bans have happened because of consequences, both monetary and electorally. The only way a politician will change their views on a subject is if they face consequences for being on the wrong side of it. Right now, a lot of politicians are on the wrong side of gun control. But thanks to gerrymandering, the ability to self-delude, and a strong NRA lobby, they can't see it and have yet to face any career consequences. Until politicians begin losing their jobs because they don't give a shit about gun violence, they will continue to do nothing about it. Hell, they'll continue to do less than nothing! Fucking idiots just blocked a measure that would prevent schizophrenics and other mentally ill people on social security from purchasing a gun. That isn't just unsafe for the public, it's unsafe for schizophrenics themselves! You don't want somebody with schizophrenia to have a gun on hand when the voices begin telling them it's time to die.

The police at the scene of the shooting come up with a typical cop description of the crime. Two black men stop to rape a white woman in a broken down car at one in the morning. She shoots at them and hits a kid going by on his bike. But Jack Ryder, Creeper Extraordinaire, describes what really happened. The two black men are mechanics who stopped to help a woman in distress. Woman panics because, well, two black men! She shoots off a gun with no training and kills the kid coming up to sell her the drugs she was parked in this neighborhood to buy.

That's a lot of social commentary packed into a three page scene. The bottom line is that it's rumored Deathstork is in town to murder a bunch of murderers. The Creeper just wants to get to the bottom of it before Lois Lane does.

Oh, and for people who actually read this comic and my review who are thinking, "That black cop written by the black writer and drawn by the black artist just called those black men thugs!"? Of course he did. The guy's a fucking cop, fer chrissakes. Edit: Later a priest uses the term but this time, it's in quotes. Get it?

According to Jack Ryder, gang members responsible for child deaths have been turning up dead. But not one of them has been shot. The Creeper thinks Deathstork (I miss the nickname Douch├ęstork) is sending an anti-gun message. Also an anti-smoking message because not one used butt has been found at any of the crime scenes. Also an anti-rape message because nobody has been raped. Also an anti-Batman message because somebody has been scrawling "Batman is a dick!" on the wall nearby each death.

The mothers of these dead children did indeed hire Deathstork. They want the people responsible for killing their kids to pay. Jack Ryder swoops in with his trench coat and his notepad and his Pulitzer dreams and begins discussing issues of race with them. The mothers are all "Dafuq?" One white man is helping solve their problems. Another white man is all, "Is this really appropriate?" (Said in that voice that black comedians do when they're imitating a white person! You know, basically Steve Urkel.)

Okay. Maybe the Batman is a dick thing was a lie. He's writing DS.

Jack Ryder is aghast at these mothers perpetuating a cycle of violence. But the detective explains it to him logically: "Guns don't kill people. Deathstork kills people."

Is there a test to find out how old you are "on the inside" by how many times the name "Deathstork" makes you giggle? I must be nine months old.

Most of this is Jack Ryder working the clues and following leads and asking witnesses. It could end up being an M. Night Shyamalan shocker: The Creeper is responsible! Maybe the "DS" is actually an emoji of The Creeper's horrified face.

Jack Ryder's story leads him to a different story and a different reason for Deathstork being in Chicago. It also leads him to getting shot so now he's going to have to get all Creeperfied before he dies. Then maybe he'll come clean as to what this is actually all about.

It turns out Jack Ryder is actually a pretty good investigative journalist! He saw all the clues that I didn't. Like how did a bunch of mothers get enough money to hire Deathstork? Answer: they didn't! They hired a knock-off version who felt he was doing the right thing. Douch├ęstork manages to stop by to kill the guy impersonating him due to "brand dilution." Before leaving, Deathstork offers Jack Ryder his solution to the gun violence in Chicago, and it's pretty fucking cynical. I mean, I thought I was cynical but Priest's Deathstork easily has me beat.

See, the problem was innocent victims being gunned down and if...why am I explaining the punchline?!

The Ranking!
+1! Priest tells a good fucking story. Also, I just want to point out that I wrote the rant on the word "thug" before I even knew what this issue was about. It's my super power! To discuss things appropriate to the comic book I'm about to read!

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