From the New York Daily News: “Welcome to the Bizarro World of American political news. Soon after The New Republic published an opinion piece on Friday attacking Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg, harsh criticism started pouring in on social media — from both the left and the right sides of the political spectrum — prompting TNR’s editor to replace the essay with an apology.”
Well! What could it be, this “bizarro” attack on Pete Buttigieg? Some right-wing crank spewing forth hate in the guise of political commentary? No, it turns out to be a (supposedly) left-wing gay crank spewing forth hate in the guise of political commentary. The out gay novelist Dale Peck apparently now fashions himself as a witty pundit, and The New Republic went along with the ruse until it was forced by resounding criticism to scrap the piece and issue an apology.
What was so wrong about Peck’s pick-nose prose? For starters, according to Muri Assunção of the Daily News, “In the hard-to-believe essay, Peck repeatedly referred to the also openly gay Buttigieg as ‘Mary Pete.’ [Get it? It’s Peck’s cutesy play on “Mayor Pete.”] Among the many gratuitous personal insults to the mayor, Peck also compares him to a 15-year-old boy who’s wondering if he should sleep with a 50-year-old man, and speculates about Buttigieg’s sexual preferences in bed — in terms that are not appropriate to repeat in this publication.” My, my!
The Daily News continues: “One of its first public repudiations came from another opinion piece, this time from a very conservative and right-leaning news outlet, the Washington Examiner. Media commentary writer Becket Adams, who’s originally from South Bend, Indiana, called the essay ‘a meandering, nasty, and disturbingly personal op-ed,’ which attacks Mayor Pete “as the ‘Uncle Tom’ of the gay community… The article is every bit as reprehensible as it sounds, each paragraph worse than the last.”
Wait— it threatened to get worse (or better, depending on your point of view). Assunção continues: “That wasn’t enough for the League of Conservation Voters, which pulled out of a climate-change forum it was supposed to co-host with The New Republic. ‘The offensive piece by this author, and the choice to run it, are inconsistent with our values and LCV is withdrawing our participation in the presidential primary candidate climate forum previously announced in New York City on September 23,’ league president Gene Karpinski said in a statement.”
Now wait just a minute. This seems excessive to me, a thoroughgoing overreaction. The magazine stupidly published an ill-conceived and puerile op-ed piece by a not-terribly-talented show-off; that’s all. The League of Conservation Voters has no reason to take out its umbrage on all of the Democratic presidential candidates, not to mention the nation’s voters, who could certainly use many public forums to learn about climate change. Fortunately, The New Republic instead opted to pull out of the event. The forum lives to fight climate change another day.
To return to the fun, Nicole Lafond of Talking Points Memo adds an amusing detail: “The New Republic initially claimed the post was meant to be satire before it was removed on Saturday.”
Yeah? One wonders what Peck was attempting to satirize. Homophobic assholes? Actually, the “satire” claim made it into TNR’s “we’re bailing” announcement: Editor Chris Lehmann wrote that “The New Republic recognizes that this post crossed a line, and while it was largely intended as satire, it was inappropriate and invasive.”
Readers may wonder if I have a beef with Dale Peck. I do, and it’s an old one. A long time ago, I attended a reading given by Peck at the LGBT Community Center. He read a portion of his novel “Martin and John” — a description of someone with AIDS having elaborate diarrhea. It wasn’t just graphic; it was pornographic, with each grotesque detail spelled out in showy, preening prose. Having gone through such an experience in real life with my boyfriend at the time, I scarcely needed Peck to explain the precise mechanics of uncontrollable diarrhea, and since then I have resented him, perhaps beyond reason. Still, I have no compunction about gloating over Peck’s absurd bid for attention, an endeavor that backfired badly and ended, ironically, as a stinking pile of runny shit.
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