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Why I Heckled Michelle Obama
June 8, 2013 3:00 PM   Subscribe

During a speech at a $10,000 per plate DNC fundraiser on June 4, Michelle Obama was heckled by gay rights advocate and GetEQUAL member Ellen Sturtz, calling on President Obama to sign an executive order prohibiting federal contractors from LGBT workplace discrimination. The first lady responded by telling Sturtz and the 200 attendees, "[L]isten to me or you can take the mic, but I'm leaving. You all decide. You have one choice."

Sturtz was escorted out of the event

Sturtz's Response: Why I confronted the first lady

Lesbian Fundraisers and the Ellen Sturtz Fallout

Ellen Sturtz, Why Did You Think It Was Okay to Heckle the FLOTUS While She Talked About Black Youth in Crisis?

When Michelle Obama squared off with a heckler at a private fundraiser last night, the racial context was hard to ignore: a white woman yelling at the country's most visible black woman and that same black woman offering a pointed response.

Did Michelle Obama heckler use coded racial words? Or not?

BuzzFeed: White Noise: Ellen Sturtz’s Failed Protest & “Rude” Heckling, Perhaps, But LGBT Job Discrimination Is In The News

HuffPo: In Defense of Heckling Michelle Obama: Where Do Civil Rights Happen? & That Moment When Ellen Sturtz Heckled Michelle Obama

10 Other People Ellen Sturtz Should Heckle
posted by roomthreeseventeen (184 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
I don't care how important you think you are, heckling the first lady is uncool.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 3:06 PM on June 8, 2013 [29 favorites]


I don't care how cool the first lady thinks she is, she should have a bit of a thicker skin given the power imbalance between her and her one heckler.
posted by Going To Maine at 3:09 PM on June 8, 2013 [44 favorites]


I don't care how important you think you are, heckling the first lady is uncool.

Why?
posted by kyp at 3:13 PM on June 8, 2013 [11 favorites]


I think there's something to be said about the racial makeup of the gay rights movement. The more known members of the community (Ian McKellan, Dan Savage, Harvey Milk) tend to be predominantly white, and workplace discrimination, while harmful and terrible, does seem to be far less harmful than the kind of institutional racism and corruption by way of the drug war or popular culture or education spending that afflicts poor black communities. It's hard not to see one as asking for the privilege of being treated as an equal and the other as asking for any shred of attention on an abuse of rights.

So when the CNN lady made the point about 'asking for everything' I think it's one that keeps in mind that there are limited hours in the day through which media focuses on advocacy and there are limited hours of free time that people devote to such and such causes. So while the well of altruism runs deep, the infrastructure for the distribution of equality does appear to be heavily biased. You can care about so many things in your day-to-day but it's likely that you really only ever devote yourself to a few select causes. From the kind of media attention that's paid to gay rights at the moment and the kind of easy attention it gets, it almost seems to obviate these other things, as if there weren't other issues.

We've come a long way from Matthew Shepherd to this and this is a movement that has momentum that's pushing to a good area. But it seems symbolic, in a way, that the Human Rights Campaign is focused only on gay and lesbian issues, much less so on trans issues, and far less so on human rights in general, and I wonder if there isn't something to the privilege argument.
posted by dubusadus at 3:14 PM on June 8, 2013 [7 favorites]


Kinda silly to heckle someone over legislation when she has no legislative power.
posted by PenDevil at 3:14 PM on June 8, 2013 [102 favorites]


I don't care how important you think you are, heckling the first lady is uncool.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 3:06 PM on June 8
[+] [!]

Exactly. Gay people should politely request equal rights and protection when it's convenient for those around them.
posted by FirstMateKate at 3:14 PM on June 8, 2013 [18 favorites]


It looks like Sturtz believes in one of our society's most aggravating traditions: the loudest person in the room is the person with the most important point to be made, and as long as you're able to shout down your opponent you're the most correct. Screw her. I certainly won't be listening to anything she has to say in the future, no matter how much I believe in her cause.
posted by item at 3:14 PM on June 8, 2013 [50 favorites]


Christ, what an asshole.
posted by mojohand at 3:16 PM on June 8, 2013 [18 favorites]


Heckle your enemies, by all means, get in their faces, but give some room to those who aren't necessarily in lockstep with your cause, especially when they are good people.
posted by lobstah at 3:19 PM on June 8, 2013 [10 favorites]


Exactly. Gay people should politely request equal rights and protection when it's convenient for those around them.

I don't think that's the point. Work has been done "behind the scenes" with this administration for almost five years now. Obama is hardly ignoring the LGBT community.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 3:20 PM on June 8, 2013 [7 favorites]


Why?

It's not even that this is the first lady. Heckling is disrespectful and of no utility. I say this as someone who has done a bit of volunteer work for the LGBTQ community and their rights, and was involved in the Occupy movement, which was infamous for mic-checking people. I didn't like it there, and don't like it here.
posted by SollosQ at 3:20 PM on June 8, 2013 [16 favorites]


Michelle Obama was talking about poor black youth when she was heckled. Was that not a legitimate topic of discussion? What should she have done in response to the heckler?
posted by dirigibleman at 3:22 PM on June 8, 2013 [60 favorites]


I don't care how cool the first lady thinks she is, she should have a bit of a thicker skin given the power imbalance between her and her one heckler.
Why? People paid to see her talk, not get heckled, do you know how much those fundraisers cost to attend? They ain't cheap.
Exactly. Gay people should politely request equal rights and protection when it's convenient for those around them.
Well, they should at least request it from the people who can give it to them, which the first lady can't. So what's the point exactly?
posted by delmoi at 3:24 PM on June 8, 2013 [6 favorites]


If she seriously believed that this episode would get people talking about anything other than the heckling, that it would open up avenues of discussion regarding LGBT employment rights, she's a bigger fool than I am - and I'm a huge fucking fool. This kind of protest didn't work for Code Pink during the Bush Nightmare Decade, it didn't work for the Occupy Human Microphone protesters, and there's no reason to believe that it worked for Sturtz. It changes no one's mind on a topic, it challenges no one, and all it does is make what should be well thought out points look like they're being presented by the drunk guy behind the visiting team's dugout.
posted by item at 3:25 PM on June 8, 2013 [28 favorites]


OMG!! Did someone violate the decorum of a political fundraiser? Quick, the smelling salts!
posted by wrapper at 3:25 PM on June 8, 2013 [19 favorites]


I think that third link is very helpful in understanding the context - exactly what Michelle Obama was speaking about, and the point at which she was interrupted. I'm a lesbian, and I'm all for workplace protections, but I think it's tactless in the extreme at very best to take actions that make it look like we think it's more important than black kids getting shot on the South Side.
posted by restless_nomad at 3:26 PM on June 8, 2013 [114 favorites]


It's going to be fun later to compare this thread to the Daniel Tosh heckling thread when I have more time. I bet I'm not the only person whose opinions on heckling with regard to these 2 cases contradict each other in some ways.

Also, can we get the heckling tag added to this thread? Thanks.
posted by themanwho at 3:28 PM on June 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


I don't like the fact that Sturtz interrupted the FLOTUS; however, in today's media-saturated world, with strident messages competing for mindspace 24 hours every day, it's easy to imagine an impassioned person doing something like this, because s/he may feel like "how else does one get heard"?

Personally, I think there are more appropriate ways to go about asking for and **making** change. With everyone having access to the network, it's really, really hard to be heard. It's even more difficult to agitate for change.

After thinking about this for some time, I'm slowly becoming convinced that we have been - are in - a "dark age" of sorts, and that the only way out is to start making small social/economic/political/environmental experiments happen, by the 100's of thousands. From that, 1000 solutions will bloom. I'm convinced this is where the action is going to be, for quite some time. Any other loud or rude attempts to be heard will get noticed, and maybe gain some immediate attention, but will get swallowed up and spit out by the networked media machine.

Sturtz will probably gain some notoriety among her more radical peers, but she shouldn;t kid herself for a minute, thinking that what she did at that fundraiser will make a positive difference for the cause she is most passionate about.
posted by Vibrissae at 3:28 PM on June 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


The funny thing about the Overton Window is, it'll always annoy people inside the window for it to be shifted in their direction.
posted by Riki tiki at 3:30 PM on June 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


I have no problem with heckling. But there's a great value to picking a good target and knowing a good time and place. Michelle Obama doesn't seem a very good target to heckle for Sturtz's cause, and the timing left much to be desired. So, while I'm sympathetic to the cause, she gets a failing grade.
posted by 2N2222 at 3:30 PM on June 8, 2013 [12 favorites]


"Let me tell you why I heckled Michelle Obama..."
"Because you're so unimaginative that you can't get your message heard in a way that doesn't make you look like a howler monkey?"
"No, it's because..."
"I'm sticking with 'howler monkey.'"
"I am not..."
"Look, all I'm hearing is 'AROOOOO.' What else ya' got?"
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 3:39 PM on June 8, 2013 [51 favorites]


Exactly. Gay people should politely request equal rights and protection when it's convenient for those around them.

Say, do you have any video of Martin Luther King yelling at Jackie Kennedy? No? Funny, I thought everything would be on YouTube by now...
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 3:42 PM on June 8, 2013 [62 favorites]


GetEqual is definitely of the activist school of thought that values passion over forethought.
posted by klangklangston at 3:44 PM on June 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


Maybe it was a warm-up heckle.
posted by Brocktoon at 3:46 PM on June 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm all for heckling as a form of civil disobedience -- there's a direct accountability which is difficult to get otherwise, and can be quite effective.

But if the person being heckled is neither responsible for causing the problem, nor has the ability to correct it, then it's just piggyback advertising, and I've no respect for that at all.
posted by Capt. Renault at 3:46 PM on June 8, 2013 [46 favorites]


There's an interesting part of Alinksy's Rules for Radicals where he talk about tactics. According to him, the tastefulness and ethics of tactics are almost always defined by those in power to such an extent that only tactics that are useless are considered appropriate.

I try to remember this when this sort of thing happens.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 4:04 PM on June 8, 2013 [41 favorites]


It's going to be fun later to compare this thread to the Daniel Tosh heckling thread when I have more time. I bet I'm not the only person whose opinions on heckling with regard to these 2 cases contradict each other in some ways.

Probably because Michelle Obama actually has something of value to say and threatening to get off the stage is considered somewhat classier than telling the audience it would be funny if the heckler got raped.
posted by NoraReed at 4:05 PM on June 8, 2013 [24 favorites]


" You all decide. You have one choice."

I was on the First Lady's side until I saw that quote.

Anyone in politics (even by marriage) who tells me I have ONE choice will never be MY choice.
posted by oneswellfoop at 4:11 PM on June 8, 2013 [6 favorites]


The First Lady is a sort of verboten target. Its undignified and doesnt make anyone look particularly good. So when what should have been a political ally starts heckling and making a fuss, the powers at be in the WH should be PANICKING. They're so frustrated at the lack of progress that they're willing to go the MAD route.
posted by Slackermagee at 4:11 PM on June 8, 2013


threatening to get off the stage is considered somewhat classier than telling the audience it would be funny if the heckler got raped

depending on the crowd, it could have the same effect.
posted by oneswellfoop at 4:13 PM on June 8, 2013


During a speech at a $10,000 per plate DNC fundraiser

What were they serving?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:15 PM on June 8, 2013 [4 favorites]


So when what should have been a political ally starts heckling and making a fuss, the powers at be in the WH should be PANICKING. They're so frustrated at the lack of progress that they're willing to go the MAD route.

Yeah, maybe. Or maybe, y'know, remembering that gay people aren't actually a hive mind and that the actions of an individual reveal little about the matter one way or another. I think maybe the second one.
posted by howfar at 4:15 PM on June 8, 2013 [5 favorites]


I don't care how important you think you are, heckling the first lady is uncool.
Why?


Because Michelle Obama has been nothing but an absolute class act on a wide variety of issues. Heckling her is a Westboro Baptist Church maneuver.

Gay people should politely request equal rights and protection when it's convenient for those around them.

Alternatively they could shoot themselves in the foot and alienate the very people who's help they want by pelting them with eggs on every available occasion. No one says "I deserve respect" like petulant children who constantly believe they're the most import people in the room.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 4:16 PM on June 8, 2013 [15 favorites]


No one says "I deserve respect" like petulant children who constantly believe they're the most import people in the room.

That behavior only works on Republicans. (And works damn well lately)
posted by oneswellfoop at 4:21 PM on June 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


That old cliche about any publicity being good publicity isn't actually true, particularly in politics. $10,000 is really cheap but what's the point if you're not in control of your message? People are talking about the heckler and the method more than the message. It's a page from PETA, and I don't think that particular book is very effective.
posted by danny the boy at 4:31 PM on June 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


In addition to being absolutely useless at getting people thinking about gay rights as was pointed out earlier in the thread, I feel like the context of the heckling exposes one of the darker directions that parts of the LGBT community is starting to move towards where other social justice movements are prioritized over and placed in opposition to gay rights, when they should truthfully be working in conjunction. Racism is a huge issue in the LGBT community now, with more and more voices especially recently commenting upon a feeling where they're forced to choose between their race and their homosexuality, because the LGBT community at times doesn't seem to recognize the intersectionality of oppression but demands one to uphold their position as a LGBT person as their central and dominant oppression.

If Sturtz wasn't aware of the context her heckling was occurring in - that is, she was interrupting a speech that touched upon racism and the oppression of black people to promote her own cause - that, to me at least, is a clear indicator of her privileged thinking as a LGBT person that somehow, her own oppression takes precedence over that of another's. I cannot agree with that; that is playing at oppression olympics; you cannot, and should not, demand that the rights of one minority be transferred to that of your own minority because of some internalized superiority over the relative importance of their respective causes.
posted by Conspire at 4:32 PM on June 8, 2013 [51 favorites]


Well, politically, someone like a first lady or a chief of staff is generally seen as an an extension of the president with whom they're associated. So, I don't see it as off-limits to heckle one. But (Barack) Obama is neither a leader nor an obstructionist when it comes to LGBT issues. I don't know why you'd heckle a weathervane.
posted by tyllwin at 4:32 PM on June 8, 2013 [4 favorites]


The part where @codepink tweeted

@hugoschwyzer @flotus @aliciakeys Maybe you should stop playing identity politics & actually pay attention to the issues being raised


made me do that thing where I simultaneously burst out laughing and also into giant flames of rage.
posted by rtha at 4:39 PM on June 8, 2013 [11 favorites]


Say, do you have any video of Martin Luther King yelling at Jackie Kennedy? No? Funny, I thought everything would be on YouTube by now...

Even if it did exist the King family would assert copyright control and only let it be used in strictly licensed circumstances, not on Youtube.
posted by phearlez at 4:46 PM on June 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


Coming soon: the PunchUp© Heckler's HUD for Google Glass. X-RAY SPECS FOR THE INVISIBLE BACKPACK. Our patented algorithm makes complex privilege calculation and target selection a breeze. You'll never heckle someone who doesn't "deserve it" again!
posted by Lorin at 4:46 PM on June 8, 2013 [4 favorites]


Gay people should politely request equal rights and protection when it's convenient for
those around them.
Alternatively they could shoot themselves in the foot and alienate the very people who's help they want


Yeah, because it's totally gay people's fault they're alienated in political high-power situations.


I'm not really trying to support what she did, but I think the tone arguments in this thread are dumb. Saying heckling FLOTUS because it's probably not that effective- thats a good argument. Saying it was uncalled for because it took away from the discussion on black youth-that's a great argument. Saying it's uncouth? Yeah, whatever.

I think Bunny Ultramod said what I was trying to get at in a much better way.
posted by FirstMateKate at 4:53 PM on June 8, 2013 [4 favorites]


Where the hell does Sturtz think she is -- in a Free Speech Zone or something?!
First the activists came for the $10,000 per plate DNC fundraisers, and I didn't speak out...
posted by Foci for Analysis at 4:58 PM on June 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Sorry, Lorin; I know you mean your comment as a joke, but I feel that it's disingenuous to imply that activists are supposed to rank people by their apparent privilege before deciding whether to heckle them or not. The situation was not Sturtz versus "the less privileged" Michelle Obama; it was Sturtz willfully deciding to interrupt a speech upon racial discrimination in the context of a community growing increasingly less inclusive especially on the front of race. If anything, she should have been conscious of the fact that she was marginalizing her own community by reinforcing the dogma that gay rights was somehow more important than racial discrimination.
posted by Conspire at 4:59 PM on June 8, 2013 [8 favorites]


the loudest person in the room is the person with the most important point to be made, and as long as you're able to shout down your opponent you're the most correct.

I thought it was the person with the largest bladder capacity ... or is that just corporate America?
posted by ZenMasterThis at 5:00 PM on June 8, 2013


a white person telling a black person what she should be talking about? sadly unsurprising.
posted by jpe at 5:02 PM on June 8, 2013 [6 favorites]


I don't care how important you think you are, heckling the first lady is uncool.

It isn't nice.
posted by DU at 5:10 PM on June 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


a white person telling a black person what she should be talking about? sadly unsurprising.

Or was it a straight person telling a gay person what they should be talking about?
posted by DU at 5:11 PM on June 8, 2013 [4 favorites]


Say, do you have any video of Martin Luther King yelling at Jackie Kennedy? No? Funny, I thought everything would be on YouTube by now...

Was this person pretending to be Martin Luther King Jr?

Were there any sort of disruptive protests targeted at those holding power as part of the civil rights movement? Do you support the general principle behind those protests? Would you even in situations where those in power being protested didn't have direct legislative votes and/or were discussing other issues of import?
posted by crayz at 5:21 PM on June 8, 2013


a white person telling a black person what she should be talking about? sadly unsurprising.

She's the First Lady of the United States, married to the most powerful man on earth. Maybe you need to stop thinking of her primarily as a black person.
posted by crayz at 5:23 PM on June 8, 2013 [13 favorites]


Exactly. Gay people should politely request equal rights and protection when it's convenient for those around them.

Gay people should just be polite and not say anything, ever, for fear of offense.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 5:36 PM on June 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


" You all decide. You have one choice."

I was on the First Lady's side until I saw that quote.


What? Though I'll agree she could have phrased it better, I read this as - "Either I will stay, and the heckler will stop interrupting me, or I will leave and the heckler can take the stage. You [the audience] get to pick one of these two options."

She candidly admitted that she didn't feel comfortable dealing with this sort of situation, why shouldn't we cut her some slack in deciding how to phrase things on the fly when she has been accosted by a heckler?
posted by arnicae at 5:38 PM on June 8, 2013 [12 favorites]


"He said he was 'disappointed' in Obama's reaction to Sturtz and surprised she 'approached Ellen as aggressively as she did.'"

"#BlackPrivilege: where you can be interrupted during a speech, and then made to look like YOU should have shown more respect."
posted by NoMich at 5:39 PM on June 8, 2013 [44 favorites]


Sometimes people take extreme action because they want you to pay attention to their cause. But a lot of the time protesters take extreme action because they want you to pay attention to the protester. This is how all good movements are ruined.

At a time when attitudes toward LGBTQ people and the laws pertaining to them have been shifting in their favor at a lightning pace compared to the past, attacking your allies because you want it to happen faster doesn’t strike me as a brave, or smart move. It’s obviously an attention getting one though.

10 other people indeed, you could make a list of hundreds of people. But that would require bravery instead of showboating.
posted by bongo_x at 5:42 PM on June 8, 2013 [6 favorites]


Some of my friends are involved in GetEqual in Texas. My best friend was married (illegally) by a Unitarian minister on the Capitol steps at one of their marches, and I carried a banner in another one. I'm glad to see them in the news like this, they're the only organization I know that's actually fighting for social justice and not just rich gay men selling you t-shirts and stickers (cough cough, sorry). Some of the people I know have been arrested multiple times at demonstrations and actions.

As far as Michelle Obama goes, Jesus Christ. "I'M GONNA TAKE MY BALL AND GO HOME! DAMN HOMOS, WANTING MY HUSBAND TO DO WHAT HE SAID HE'D DO WHEN HE WAS ELECTED IN 2008"
posted by DecemberBoy at 5:49 PM on June 8, 2013 [5 favorites]


Sad to see so many nominal "progressives" telling her to shut up and be polite. These are these people's fucking LIVES, it's not some abstract issue to them, and it's my friends and family too so it's my life as well. Fuck your idea of polite decorum.
posted by DecemberBoy at 5:51 PM on June 8, 2013 [6 favorites]


Well obviously she thought her cause was much more important than that of black youth in crisis.
posted by rocket88 at 5:54 PM on June 8, 2013 [4 favorites]


Sad to see so many nominal "progressives" telling her to shut up and be polite.

Are you talking about Michelle Obama or Ellen Sturtz?

These are these people's fucking LIVES, it's not some abstract issue to them, and it's my friends and family too so it's my life as well.

Are you talking about gay people or poor black kids?

Fuck your idea of polite decorum.

I guess poor black people will have to bring their own hecklers to heckle the hecklers if they want their issues heard.
posted by dirigibleman at 5:55 PM on June 8, 2013 [68 favorites]


In a best case scenario what does heckling in this situation accomplish? How does it move Sturtz closer to her goals?
posted by imabanana at 5:55 PM on June 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


During a speech at a $10,000 per plate DNC fundraiser ...

What is this -- Fox News?

Tickets ranged from $500 to $10,000. In fact Ellen Sturtz herself was there because she bought a $500 ticket.
posted by JackFlash at 5:56 PM on June 8, 2013 [11 favorites]


Were there any sort of disruptive protests targeted at those holding power as part of the civil rights movement?

You didn't answer my question. Did MLK ever yell at Jackie Kennedy? I don't recall him heckling a decision-maker's wife, when she was talking about education, asking her when her husband was going to do something about government contracts.

I remember MLK standing in front of the Lincoln Memorial talking about his dream.

Here, let me restate that. I remember MLK's speech because I remember effective acts of civil disobedience.

No one's going to remember this unimaginative, ineffective fool.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 5:56 PM on June 8, 2013 [18 favorites]


Or was it a straight person telling a gay person what they should be talking about?
posted by DU at 8:11 PM on June 8



Here's what Mrs.Obama was actually saying. From Mrs. Obama's Speech:

...And that afternoon, I sat down with these 25 students -- and these kids were the best and the brightest at that school. The valedictorian, the football star, kids in ROTC. But let me tell you something about the kids at Harper. Every day, they face impossible odds -- jobless parents addicted to drugs; friends and loved ones shot before their very eyes.

In fact, when the school counselor asked these young men and women whether they had ever known any who had been shot, every single one of those students raised their hand. So she then asked them, “What do you think when the weather forecast says '85 and sunny?'” Now, you would assume that nice weather like that, a beautiful day like today, would be a good thing. Not for these kids. They replied that a weather report like that puts fear in their hearts, because in their neighborhood, when the weather is nice, that’s when gangs come out and the shootings start.

So, see, for these wonderful kids, instead of reveling in the joys of their youth -- college applications and getting ready for prom and getting that driver’s license -- these young people are consumed with staying alive. And there are so many kids in this country just like them -– kids with so much promise, but so few opportunities; good kids who are doing everything they can to break the cycle and beat the odds. And they are the reason we are here tonight. We cannot forget that. I don’t care what we -- they, those kids, they are the reason we’re here.

And today, we need to be better for them. Not for us -- for them. We need to be better for all of our children, our kids in this country. Because they are counting on us to give them the chances they need for the futures they deserve. (Applause.)

So here’s the thing -- we cannot wait for the next presidential election to get fired up and ready to go. We cannot wait. Right now, today, we have an obligation to stand up for those kids. And I don’t care what you believe in, we don’t --

AUDIENCE MEMBER: (Inaudible.)

MRS. OBAMA: Wait, wait, wait. One of the things --

AUDIENCE MEMBER: (Inaudible.)

MRS. OBAMA: One of the things that I don’t do well is this. (Applause.) Do you understand?

(full transcript of speech here)


And from over at Policymic.com

When interviewed after being escorted out of the fundraiser, Sturtz said of the First Lady, “She came right down in my face. I was taken aback.”...Sturtz’s word choice of “taken aback” is one of distinct privilege; Sturtz sees herself as above reproach in this situation... Either black women are supposed to tacitly accept maltreatment and disrespect, or when they do exercise their agency, they are branded as the “Angry Black Woman.”

The choice of words Sturtz employed indicate that she has cast the First Lady as the aggressor who over-zealously responded to reason with anger. And once you label a black woman as “angry,” you have, in essence, invalidated any response, no matter how justified or rational it may be. You can silence any challenge or dissenting thought from a black woman by even remotely alluding to this offensive stereotype...


Policymic wasn't the only one to notice the racial overtones of the incident.

As far as I'm concerned, this whole incident is a large-scale case of "white woman cryin'." I'm not saying Sturtz didn't have a point, but she started something, Mrs. O finished it, and now Sturtz is wringing her hands and crying about the mean ol' Angry Black Woman.

Meanwhile, almost no media outlet has covered what Mrs. O was actually talking about at the fundraiser, and Sturtz gets to promote her political goals in the WaPo while making it sound like Mrs. Obama was about to take a swing at her. Sturtz may not have gotten exactly what she wanted, but she got the next best thing: attention. Which is ultimately what "white woman cryin'" is about.
posted by magstheaxe at 5:58 PM on June 8, 2013 [101 favorites]


Based on what I'm reading in the linked articles and statements, Sturtz's "heckle" was not premeditated (e.g., quoting Sturtz, "When I blurted out my comments during the first lady’s speech, it was a spontaneous reaction [to something Mrs. Obama said]."). Further, one of the links indicates that the GetEqual group had several members in attendance; that they intended some sort of statement or action; but Sturtz's interruption/"heckle" was not it, and was unexpected by the GetEqual group. If that's the truth, then I say we give Sturtz a buy on this; it was awkward, it was disrespectful not just of Mrs. Obama but also of her own fellow Get Equal members (i.e., to the extent it did in fact step on their toes or disrupt some other sort of statement the group wanted to make), but it was made in the heat of the moment and reflected a lot of anger about a broken promise from the campaign, a promise that was used to extract big donations from GetEqual or other allied supporters of Obama. Those are strong mitigating factors.

Based on the above facts and analysis (assuming I got the facts right) I think it was probably an embarrassing - or at least emotional - moment for all concerned, but the emotions seem well justified and appropriate, maybe if the timing and manner of their expression was not ideal. But it doesn't seem charitable to criticize Ms. Sturtz on whether her "heckle" was optimally effective as political strategy, or rude, or whatever. The underlying issue she was trying to raise still seems to be unresolved, and that is whether and when President Obama will make good on his 2008 campaign promise ... and of course, the First Lady has the President's ear, and how often do you have a chance to talk to her, so maybe it's time to focus more on the substance of the complaint and less on aesthetics and manner of presentation.
posted by JimInLoganSquare at 6:00 PM on June 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Heckle your adversaries.

If you heckle your friends, even if they are not doing everything exactly the way you would do it, soon they won't be your friends.

Heckle Barack, who is actually the elected one. Why heckle his wife?

Any successful battle has several components... one is timing and the other, targets. This lady seems to have had neither in mind.

I am extremely supportive of gay rights. And I am also pissed at Obama (Barack, not Michele) for a number of things. Why the hell would I scream at my wife over Afghanistan with these two statements as premise? It makes as much sense.

The woman did herself a disservice and her cause a disservice. Neither cool, nor effective. Nor smart. Nor desirable. Actually, bad all around. She deserves some modulation. If she's brave enough to do this, it should be channeled to better ends.
posted by FauxScot at 6:02 PM on June 8, 2013 [8 favorites]


It's pretty ridiculous to make an inept political maneuver and then defend it by saying "Politics is politics." The heckling was so fucking stupid.
posted by leopard at 6:03 PM on June 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Based on what I'm reading in the linked articles and statements, Sturtz's "heckle" was not premeditated

She wrote an article defending her actions.

Hey maybe someone should go yell at Obama’s mother in law about Guantanamo!
posted by bongo_x at 6:03 PM on June 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


If that's the truth, then I say we give Sturtz a buy on this;

Yeah, no. That makes it even more important to unpack the questions of privilege and racism at play here. She felt comfortable standing up and interrupting a speech, so comfortable that it didn't take any planning or forethought at all, and then she's "taken aback" that she got a negative response? There are things going on in her worldview there that I'd like to say I don't understand, but I'm afraid I do.

So yeah, my reaction is not "there, there, it's ok, you were upset," it's "Jesus, lady, quit being on my side."
posted by restless_nomad at 6:04 PM on June 8, 2013 [42 favorites]


As far as I'm concerned, this whole incident is a large-scale case of "white woman cryin'.

Wow, I’ve never heard of this but it’s amazingly relevant, and pretty damn funny.
posted by bongo_x at 6:06 PM on June 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


If anyone finishes reading magstheaxe's post and still thinks Sturtz deserves a pass on her bullshit, well, memail me and I'll provide some online sources for improved reading comprehension.
posted by Purposeful Grimace at 6:10 PM on June 8, 2013 [8 favorites]


JimInLoganSquare: "Based on what I'm reading in the linked articles and statements, Sturtz's "heckle" was not premeditated (e.g., quoting Sturtz, "When I blurted out my comments during the first lady’s speech, it was a spontaneous reaction [to something Mrs. Obama said].")."

Having read the transcript that magstheaxe quoted, what? What in Mrs. Obama's speech prompted Sturtz's angry outburst? I don't read anywhere in there that Mrs. Obama was trying to rank one group's oppression against another's, or anything like that. She was talking about how these smart young people with loads of potential are afraid to go outside in their own neighborhoods for fear of getting shot, FFS. Maybe my perspective is off, but to me getting shot dead is, in fact, a more negative thing to experience than losing a job.

Choosing to speak about one particular issue at a time is not the same thing as denying that other issues are important. On the contrary, insisting that one particular issue must be the focus of attention at all times — especially when it's an issue that affects you, while the issue you're trying to out-shout discussion of doesn't — is self-centered and oblivious at best.
posted by Lexica at 6:15 PM on June 8, 2013 [12 favorites]


"There's an interesting part of Alinksy's Rules for Radicals where he talk about tactics. According to him, the tastefulness and ethics of tactics are almost always defined by those in power to such an extent that only tactics that are useless are considered appropriate.

I try to remember this when this sort of thing happens.
"

Yeah, but the counterpoint is that this doesn't mean that everything inappropriate is effective.

" I feel like the context of the heckling exposes one of the darker directions that parts of the LGBT community is starting to move towards where other social justice movements are prioritized over and placed in opposition to gay rights, when they should truthfully be working in conjunction."

I'm not sure there's a move towards that; if anything, I'm seeing a move away, especially as advocates for LGBT equality start realizing that votes from other demographic groups mainly under the Democrat tent are votes that they should be working for. Like, in California, a lot of the current power coalition is made up of Latinos and LGBT folks (notably, Speaker Perez), which has really increased the work around immigration (and LGBT people were PISSED about being dropped from the immigration bill, but are still working for it because it's the right thing to do).

I will say, something that's relevant to this discussion is that, on the whole, African Americans really don't like the "Civil Rights" framing of the LGBT movement, and focus groups volunteer a couple of big reasons: That the state violence suffered by African Americans is diminished by comparison to LGBT suffering, and, relatedly, that it's a usurpation of "Civil Rights" while African American people are still the victims of structuralized violence.

I think there are big similarities, and I think that LGBT discrimination is fundamentally a civil rights issue, but acting as if there's one big, internally equivalent Civil Rights Movement that encompasses both LGBT and African American civil rights movements tends to diminish the unique history of both.
posted by klangklangston at 6:19 PM on June 8, 2013 [10 favorites]


When I say "give Sturtz a buy," I mean forgive her for being human and making a mistake, and then ignore her, if that's what it takes to refocus the discussion on the issues - both the one she raised and the one Mrs. Obama was attempting to address when interrupted. Ms. Sturtz is a poor advocate for her group and her group's position (and her group should consider asking her to take a break from public statements), but the issue she was advocating seems like a real political issue of concern. Moreover, it seems like it was an issue that was used to obtain political campaign contributions, based on promises made (perhaps just tacitly?) by Mrs. Obama during her husband's 2008 campaign. I don't think Sturtz was trying to denigrate the substance of Ms. Obama's speech, because I don't think that was really in her mind at the time; I do think she made a mistake and blurted out something that she has attempted to justify after the fact.
posted by JimInLoganSquare at 6:20 PM on June 8, 2013


I think the reason liberal activists crash Democratic events is because when they crash Republican events they get set upon, beaten to the ground and the crap kicked out of them.
posted by George_Spiggott at 6:27 PM on June 8, 2013 [4 favorites]


If either of the Obamas gave any sort of fraction of a crap about poor and working class blacks and Americans, maybe Barry could have put in place someone other than Timmy Geithner and Team Goldman and had us a middle class mortgage bailout instead of just opening up money funnels into the casino banking balance sheets.

Your rich idea that the rest of us need to shutup and listen to them tell us about the great causes they support is just your own cowed deference to (the right sort of) power.

If this lady heckled in favor of gay rights during a 2005 Laura Bush speech on preschool education policy or whatever the fuck, 85% of the people with such ruffled ruffled feathers here would have been cheering. Especially after the privileged "take my ball and go home" response.
posted by crayz at 6:28 PM on June 8, 2013 [10 favorites]


We are more anxious to speak than be heard.

                                          Henry David Thoreau
posted by y2karl at 6:38 PM on June 8, 2013 [9 favorites]


I think the reason liberal activists crash Democratic events is because when they crash Republican events they get set upon, beaten to the ground and the crap kicked out of them.


Wait, this isn't where you dropped your wallet?
No, but the light’s better over here.

Picking the target least likely to fight back is a good strategy?

If this lady heckled in favor of gay rights during a 2005 Laura Bush speech on preschool education policy or whatever the fuck, 85% of the people with such ruffled ruffled feathers here would have been cheering.

No, maybe if she had heckled John Boehner or, you know, someone who actively works against her.

Especially after the privileged "take my ball and go home" response.

Yeah, she clearly wasn’t expecting the uppity black woman to talk back to her.
posted by bongo_x at 6:39 PM on June 8, 2013 [7 favorites]


Sturtz's "heckle" was not premeditated (e.g., quoting Sturtz, "When I blurted out my comments during the first lady’s speech, it was a spontaneous reaction [to something Mrs. Obama said].").

Yeah, I actually literally laughed out loud when I saw that claim for the first time. This woman refers to herself as an old woman (she's 56, maybe she uses a different playbook than me, but she isn't old by any ruler I'm familiar with) to try to cloak her heckling as something else, and claims that it was a spur of the moment thing.

This was no casual outburst by any means.
posted by arnicae at 6:43 PM on June 8, 2013 [8 favorites]


Yeah, she clearly wasn’t expecting the uppity black woman to talk back to her.

How about people stop constantly bringing race back into this as if any protest against a leader who happens to be black is intrinsically racist?

The people who bring race into conversations that otherwise have nothing to do with race ... those people are generally the racists.
posted by crayz at 6:46 PM on June 8, 2013 [4 favorites]


The people who bring race into conversations that otherwise have nothing to do with race ... those people are generally the racists.

Have you read any of the links? Followed any of the discussion around this? Because it really doesn't seem like you have.

Michelle Obama was speaking about black kids on the South Side of Chicago, as a black woman from the South Side. Race is where the conversation started.
posted by restless_nomad at 6:51 PM on June 8, 2013 [31 favorites]


The talk that was interrupted may have been about race but that doesn't make the interrupter automatically a racist.
posted by George_Spiggott at 6:57 PM on June 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


What were they serving?

Influence, with a side of roasted potatoes.
posted by rollbiz at 6:57 PM on June 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


only tactics that are useless are considered appropriate.

Well, I consider it inappropriate and useless, so bingo I guess.
posted by smoke at 6:58 PM on June 8, 2013 [4 favorites]


If this lady heckled in favor of gay rights during a 2005 Laura Bush speech on preschool education policy or whatever the fuck, 85% of the people with such ruffled ruffled feathers here would have been cheering.

Well, not exactly the same thing, but Kanye West's outburst about "George Bush not caring about black people" during Katrina did produce a controversial response in the US and on Metafilter.
posted by FJT at 7:02 PM on June 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


The talk that was interrupted may have been about race but that doesn't make the interrupter automatically a racist.

Of course not. That's why it's worth talking about. If it was obvious, this wouldn't be an interesting subject at all.
posted by restless_nomad at 7:02 PM on June 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


I think we're engaging on different levels of understanding of the concept of racism here; I'm seeing the idea of racism being something binary thrown around - that is, the idea you're either a horrible, bad racist, or a fine, clean normal person.

But I don't believe this school of thought is very useful or not, because all we do with it is spend time trying to argue whether it's valid to characterize a said person with a label with a highly loaded connotation instead of trying to address the actual issues.

So, I would like to suggest: whether Sturtz is a racist or not is not important at all. What IS important, however, is that her actions were influenced by her privilege, regardless of whether she was aware of it happening or not, and it was her privilege that stained her actions with a racist overtone.
posted by Conspire at 7:08 PM on June 8, 2013 [12 favorites]


I have always been ambivalent about heckling. But if I had to argue why this case of heckling was improper, it would not be the "time and place" argument. Michelle Obama wasn't speaking to little kids at the library. She was speaking at a pricey fundraising event for a political party. And many in attendance were probably privileged movers and shakers looking for access and influence. This is exactly the type of high value target I would focus on if I wanted to heckle and get my cause heard. It was an overtly political event. If Michelle Obama gave the same speech directly to the people of Chicago's south side, at a community event for example, then I would react badly to a heckler interrupting her in that very different context/setting.
posted by Seymour Zamboni at 7:16 PM on June 8, 2013 [7 favorites]


I will take Ms. Sturtz at her word that it was a spontaneous outburst, because I don't have privileged access to her internal mental states, and I also have evidence to suggest she had reasons to be angry with Mr. and Mrs. Obama for accepting her political contributions and then not delivering on their campaign promises. I also have evidence that others in the group she was attending with were surprised by her actions. Even if there was some plan on her part to make a statement and interrupt Mrs. Obama's speech, the charitable (and arguably evidence-based) interpretation is that her final decision to do so was made in the moment. That doesn't make it a good decision (I think it was not; it clearly deflected attention away from the substance of her complaint and onto its form).

I should add that while Mrs. Obama also deserves a "buy" for being human, I don't think she handled this particularly well, considering her public position - and that is especially so with regard to the petulant "take my ball and go home" part of her response. I don't get the "strong black woman not taking shit" angle here; I've been on the receiving end of that a couple of times and know what it sounds and feels like. This was really kind of a weak, dare I say passive-aggressive response by the First Lady to a perceived threat that was not in proportion to the actual level of that threat. This was Mrs. Obama's stage. She could have taken the interruption in stride, or she could have quickly taken down the heckler without threatening to ruin the experience for the entire audience. She's supposed to be a pro; she knew the job was dangerous when she took it. Also, the attempt she made to rally support and pit parts of her audience against each other (or at least against the "heckler") was bad form that made her seem weak and was not an optimal way of mastering the situation. Yes, she must have been flustered by the interruption; no, she didn't handle it perfectly well.

To her credit, Mrs. Obama right away admitted she did not handle these sorts of situations well, and her self-assessment was correct. Mrs. Obama got flustered and let it get the better of her, which is forgivable at the human level (human beings all have emotions and pride and adrenaline and therefore we don't always do the right thing - or the strategically most optimal thing - in the moment), but it is less forgivable for Mrs. Obama in particular, because she is - like it or not - a professional speaker who was addressing a paid audience of big-money political supporters, and her reaction was to threaten to pull the plug on the show. I would not be surprised to learn that, in retrospect, Mrs. Obama wishes she had handled this differently, too - at least that she hadn't done the "take my ball and go home" Cartman routine.

The good news I am seeing is that this event got people thinking about the issue Mrs. Sturtz raised, including me - someone who is embarrassed to say he didn't know anything about that issue. So, mostly because of the press about the kerfluffle at the speech, collateral good might have resulted that far outweighs the privileged and (possibly) racist subtext of how she presented that issue.
posted by JimInLoganSquare at 7:18 PM on June 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Sorry, Lorin; I know you mean your comment as a joke, but I feel that it's disingenuous to imply that activists are supposed to rank people by their apparent privilege before deciding whether to heckle them or not.

No apology necessary! Just to be unambiguously clear, I agree, and the core of the joke (in my mind, anyways) was the dismissal of that same idea. Now, where I got the idea that complex math is being used here to calculate whether or not this outburst was acceptable, I'm not sure.
posted by Lorin at 7:24 PM on June 8, 2013


JimInLoganSquare: "To her credit, Mrs. Obama right away admitted she did not handle these sorts of situations well, and her self-assessment was correct."

Can you tell us what kind of reaction Mrs. Obama could have had, that you would have approved of? I'm asking for specifics here. You've said she shouldn't have threatened to take her ball and go home. So what are the words that she should have used, in your opinion, to deal with this heckler?

Because I'm trying to come up with some myself, and most of them end up engaging with the heckler, which is a failure in my opinion. You're an invited speaker at an event, you're there to talk about something, lots of people are there to see you talk about that thing, and someone in the audience interrupts you because they have something else they'd rather talk about.

Isn't this how all speakers are taught to deal with hecklers? Shut them down immediately? Or else you've ceded control of the conversation to some guy who no one came to see.

She didn't threaten to pull the plug. She was reminding the heckler who's on the bill and who's in the audience. I honestly don't see how anyone can read "petulant" into that, except through a racially... complicated perspective.
posted by danny the boy at 7:38 PM on June 8, 2013 [6 favorites]


So what are the words that she should have used, in your opinion, to deal with this heckler?

"I understand your concern about that important issue. Please let me finish up what I'm doing here first, because it's also important. Come up and talk to me after; I mean that. Thanks."
posted by JimInLoganSquare at 7:48 PM on June 8, 2013 [5 favorites]


Oh, and I'm really not trying to say that your reading is "racist". But I emphatically agree with the idea that going to a thing where you're not invited to speak, and then being shocked by the response when you inject yourself into the program? What else is that but privilege?
posted by danny the boy at 7:48 PM on June 8, 2013 [4 favorites]


ave you read any of the links? Followed any of the discussion around this? Because it really doesn't seem like you have.

Uh, yes. If the first lady was speaking on women's reproductive rights and a homeless guy interrupted to demand they do something about homelessness, that wouldn't make him a sexist. It wouldn't mean you could insinuate sexist thought into the homeless dude's psyche, just because he happened to pick that event to protest that person at.
posted by crayz at 7:48 PM on June 8, 2013 [4 favorites]


Gaining civil rights(and I consider being able to go about in one's neighborhood in peace to be one) is not a contest in which the most deserving wins. Sturtz can email, write or call the President with her issues and was out of line heckling.
posted by brujita at 7:49 PM on June 8, 2013


If the first lady was speaking on women's reproductive rights and a homeless guy interrupted to demand they do something about homelessness, that wouldn't make him a sexist. It wouldn't mean you could insinuate sexist thought into the homeless dude's psyche, just because he happened to pick that event to protest that person a

No, but I would react differently to that than if the situation was identical but with the genders reversed, given the complex historical, social, and political interplay between men and women specifically about who gets to talk and who is heard. This is not clear-cut, it is complicated, but it is also not imaginary.
posted by restless_nomad at 7:50 PM on June 8, 2013 [5 favorites]


JimInLoganSquare: ""I understand your concern about that important issue. Please let me finish up what I'm doing here first, because it's also important. Come up and talk to me after; I mean that. Thanks.""

How is that not engaging? How is that not saying "anyone who wants to heckle me in the future will be rewarded with one-on-one time with me!"
posted by danny the boy at 7:52 PM on June 8, 2013 [16 favorites]


How is that not engaging? How is that not saying "anyone who wants to heckle me in the future will be rewarded with one-on-one time with me!"

This "heckler" paid a minimum of $500 to be in that audience. Offering to speak one-on-one with that paid audience member is being polite and is appropriate under the circumstances; it creates no precedent whatsoever for offering one-on-one time with "anyone who wants to heckle me." It also disengages and shuts down the heckler politely, effectively, and in that moment, deferring any further engagement until after the speaker has finished her planned presentation for the benefit of the other paid audience members. There is nothing at all unusual about a speaker having private and informal conversations with audience members after the speech; it happens all the time.
posted by JimInLoganSquare at 8:01 PM on June 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


So what are the words that she should have used, in your opinion, to deal with this heckler?

"I understand your concern about that important issue. Please let me finish up what I'm doing here first, because it's also important. Come up and talk to me after; I mean that. Thanks."


What, and tacitly say that anyone that heckles in the future is entitled to 1:1 time with the First Lady? Terrible idea. On preview, I completely concur with danny the boy.
posted by arnicae at 8:18 PM on June 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


Also - if someone interrupted a talk I was giving to shout things unrelated to the subject matter, I would not be all that interested in having a private and informal conversation with them later. Their lack of courtesy and respect does not automatically mean that I need to bend over backwards to accommodate them, simply not descend to their level.
posted by arnicae at 8:20 PM on June 8, 2013 [10 favorites]


I am not sure we can claim this was an ineffective action. It's pretty rare that the effectiveness of political action is instantaneously obvious.

I support Barack Obama, and have been a defender of his on this site. (I have never bought into the circular firing squad notion that he is more conservative than Nixon, and believe his administration has been marked by tremendous liberal accomplishment.)

But that doesn't mean he hasn't failed in some significant areas. He promised to expand the Employment Non-Discrimination Act to include sexual orientation and gender identity -- a promise he has broken, according to Politifact.

Here is Michele Obama's speech. She was there representing her husband and her husband's policies at a political fundraiser. The part of black youth at risk is only a percentage of the speech, and is intended to be illustrative -- she's not there specifically to discuss the problems of black students in Chicago, or to offer specific suggestions for addressing it, or to ask for support in addressing these problems. It is one of a number of illustrations of American issues that she presents Obama's administration (and the Democratic party) as being able to address while presumably Republicans can't. It was a sales pitch, which is the function of these evenings.

In the meanwhile, Michele Obama's only mention of gays and lesbians is this sentence:

We especially see it in times of tragedy and crisis -- in the teachers who rushed children to safety in Newtown, teachers who risked their lives to save students in Oklahoma -- teachers. We saw it in all those folks in Boston who ran toward the explosions and spent hours tending to perfect strangers.

And none of these folks asked the people they were helping whether they were Democrats or Republicans. They didn’t ask whether they were Christians or Muslims or Jews. They didn’t care whether they were gay or straight. It was simply enough that they were fellow Americans who were suffering and needed aid.


Perhaps you can understand that this is somewhat galling when the administration has been so slow to act on the subject of LGBT rights. This came before the talk of black youth in crisis, by the way, and may have precipitated the outburst. There is a laundry list in that speech of things that Democrats will address, and LGBT rights is left off it.

If you are going to get up in public as a representative of the president and his administration, and you are going to speak about his accomplishments, and you are going to start making a list of the things that have yet to be accomplished, and you are asking money and support, and that list leaves off LGBT issues -- well, there is risk of blowback. Appropriate? Not appropriate? That seems to me it is a matter of taste.

It sounds like it was an honest response from an audience member at that moment. That happens. And either the complaint is valid or it isn't. Whether it was the right time or the right person or the right place or the right amount of civility is beside the point, in the long run. Either Obama's administration has kept its promise to the LGBT community regarding the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, or he hasn't.

This is not a race to see who gets to claim the greatest oppression. Michelle Obama got everything she wanted to say out about black students in Chicago. As she was going to, because she shares her husband's bully pulpit, and can have $500 plate dinners, and can have people who are disruptive ejected. Her agenda, the thing she wanted to speak about, was going to get heard.

I'll tell you what wasn't going to get heard, because it is not in the text of her speech. What Obama plans to do extend Employment Non-Discrimination Act to gays and lesbians. That's not on the table. And you can pay $500 to support the DNC, and it still won't be on the table. You can be an Obama supporter for years, as Sturtz was, and it still won't be on the table. You can write a letter to the White House, you can sign petitions, and it still won't be on the table.

Is it on the table now? I dunno. Again, I don't want to judge the value of a spontaneous piece of political speech when it is still so fresh. But when somebody representing Obama gets up and talks about how desperately we all need to support each other, and, in that speech, not one iota of that support is thrown in the direction of the LGBT community, I can understand getting a little heated.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 8:21 PM on June 8, 2013 [11 favorites]


A thoughtless heckler choosing an inopportune time to broadcast a message is not the end of the world, for crying out loud. Like it or not, the First Lady speaks from a position of tremendous privilege, influence and power.

Sure it was a distraction, but for god sakes this kind of navel-gazing and attaching inflammatory labels to something as fundamental as freedom of speech really identifies all that is going wrong with the United States since 9/11.

I'm not even sure why security would have to be called, unless the stupid heckler was continuing to be disruptive. Address the distraction, politely and civilly (as in the "civil" in Civil Society that allows for freedom of speech) and carry on.

As others have said, it does nothing for one's cause to be rude to one of the most popular women in the United States.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:23 PM on June 8, 2013 [6 favorites]


JimInLoganSquare, I think "bye" is the word you want, not "buy". In sports, a team that advances to the next round of a tournament without playing has been given a bye.
posted by in278s at 8:44 PM on June 8, 2013 [7 favorites]


As far as Michelle Obama goes, Jesus Christ. "I'M GONNA TAKE MY BALL AND GO HOME! DAMN HOMOS, WANTING MY HUSBAND TO DO WHAT HE SAID HE'D DO WHEN HE WAS ELECTED IN 2008"

Oh, I missed that part in the transcript! Do you have a direct link?
posted by liketitanic at 8:52 PM on June 8, 2013 [6 favorites]


But that doesn't mean he hasn't failed in some significant areas. He promised to expand the Employment Non-Discrimination Act to include sexual orientation and gender identity -- a promise he has broken, according to Politifact.

Did you read the page? I mean, I wouldn't blame you if a quick glance was all you took, because apparently even Politifact doesn't seem to have read their own linked material. Anyways, in case you missed it, as all three articles point out, ENDA is a bill, i.e. it must originate in Congress before the President can sign it into law. And it has been introduced in Congress, in every year since 1994, but has been shot down in either or both of the chambers, because legislation now has a de facto 60-vote threshold, and the elected officials of the entire Republican party are either homophobic or so afraid of the homophobe vote that they act like them. We're talking about a party who held up reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act, a law that had been essentially unanimously bipartsian since passage, for a year simply because it gave protection to GLBT abuse victims, and where in the end, a majority of their members voted against it.

In any case, ENDA has been re-introduced this year, just under a month and a half ago, with Obama already promising to sign it--if it passes both chambers. Of course, even Sen. Portman, who came out for gay marriage is already inventing fake reasons to avoid voting for it, which doesn't bode well. But to say that's Obama's fault that ENDA hasn't been passed is wrong, and if Sturtz doesn't know about any of this, then it sounds like she's either doing a piss-poor job of making her point or is trying to obfuscate the process because she has a pre-planned narrative.
posted by zombieflanders at 9:00 PM on June 8, 2013 [10 favorites]


The President could address a lot of this with an executive order, which was precisely the nature of the heckling.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 9:03 PM on June 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


Bunny Ultramod: "What Obama plans to do extend Employment Non-Discrimination Act to gays and lesbians."

You meant "What Obama plans to do to extend the Employment Non-Discrimination Act to gays, lesbians, bisexuals and trans people", yes?
posted by jiawen at 9:04 PM on June 8, 2013 [4 favorites]


You meant "What Obama plans to do to extend the Employment Non-Discrimination Act to gays, lesbians, bisexuals and trans people", yes?

As I refer to it as an LGBT issue throughout, I am not clear on why you are singling out the one sentence where I accidentally left off the other two. I assure you, it wasn't intentional, and I regret the oversight, but it seems uncharitable of you to locate one sentence in 100 to lodge a complaint about.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 9:08 PM on June 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


This "heckler" paid a minimum of $500 to be in that audience. Offering to speak one-on-one with that paid audience member is being polite and is appropriate under the circumstances; it creates no precedent whatsoever for offering one-on-one time with "anyone who wants to heckle me."

I’ll try that at the next concert I go to. I paid my money, I demand to speak one on one with them. That’s what it said on her ticket, right?

The good news I am seeing is that this event got people thinking about the issue Mrs. Sturtz raised, including me - someone who is embarrassed to say he didn't know anything about that issue.

I read the links and I don't what issue she was trying to raise. I was too distracted by the sideshow.

Uh, yes. If the first lady was speaking on women's reproductive rights and a homeless guy interrupted to demand they do something about homelessness, that wouldn't make him a sexist.

The racism charge has much less to do with the subject of the speech than with the heckler’s response when interviewed. If the homeless guy said "I didn’t expect that woman to talk back to me like that, but women are bitchy" it would have been sexist.

The defense that she made a mistake, or was caught up in the moment, or passionately cares so much she couldn’t help herself is made irrelevant by the fact that she wrote an article afterwards defending her actions.
posted by bongo_x at 9:13 PM on June 8, 2013 [6 favorites]


The President could address a lot of this with an executive order, which was precisely the nature of the heckling.

Well, as she points out in her op-ed, it was half the nature of the heckling, one of which was ENDA (which, see above on why she's being a little obtuse on this) and the other was an executive order. In the case of the latter, though, "a lot of this" really means "only contractors with the federal government instead of the entire US public and private sector." The first part is the executive order, which is admittedly much better than nothing, and a very good first step, but the second part is ENDA, and in that case, her heckling would have been much better directed at someone like Sen. Portman or his (theoretically) persuadable colleagues, not the FLOTUS.
posted by zombieflanders at 9:14 PM on June 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


Perhaps so. But I have noticed that when people participate in a democracy, they rarely do so with the skills of a trained political insider. The things that most need to be said are usually not said cleverly, or to the right person, or at the right place.

I have found this to be true in my own life. The things I most need to hear are often said by the wrong people in the wrong place in the wrong way at the the wrong time. But if I wait for them to get it exactly right, they will never say it, and I will never hear it.

It's messy and perhaps not a polite as we might like. But you want clean and polite, you'd better reconsider democracy.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 9:19 PM on June 8, 2013 [4 favorites]


"But I have noticed that when people participate in a democracy, they rarely do so with the skills of a trained political insider. The things that most need to be said are usually not said cleverly, or to the right person, or at the right place."

Yeah, but you can't have it both ways: If this was a dinner for trained political insiders who have the power to accomplish her goals, then (outside of getting people talking about this) then the best way to be effective is to treat it as such and not break it up with heckling.
posted by klangklangston at 9:22 PM on June 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


If this was a dinner for trained political insiders who have the power to accomplish her goals, then (outside of getting people talking about this) then the best way to be effective is to treat it as such and not break it up with heckling.

Was it a dinner for trained political insiders who have the power to accomplish her goals? I don't see anything indicating this. It seems like it was a fundraiser to me.

I mean, I guess a case can be made that your participation at a $500 per plate fundraiser is to listen and fork over money. But when I give a politician money, I expect to have a little bit of input into their agenda as well.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 9:26 PM on June 8, 2013


"But I have noticed that when people participate in a democracy, they rarely do so with the skills of a trained political insider. The things that most need to be said are usually not said cleverly, or to the right person, or at the right place."

And are mostly ineffective and sometimes hurt their own cause.

I don’t know how much of a trained political insider you need to be to think maybe you should go after the members of Congress who publicly state that they hate you and are actively trying to stop your cause, instead of your allies. And paying a bunch of money and showing up at a private political fundraiser does not sound like the actions of someone politically naive. Was she on her way to the movies and walked in there on accident? I wouldn’t have any idea how to even find an event like that.
posted by bongo_x at 9:36 PM on June 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


I don’t know how much of a trained political insider you need to be to think maybe you should go after the members of Congress who publicly state that they hate you and are actively trying to stop your cause, instead of your allies.

Really? I go after the people who actually have promised to help me but have failed, instead of the ones who have promised not to. This is also Alinsky. He says one of the most powerful things you can do is make people live up to their promises.

I mean, yes, you can also heckle your enemies, but in my experience all that does is remind them of why they don't like you. It's hard to shame them into doing better when they think they are doing fine. It's much easier to target people who might actually feel some shame over their failures.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 9:40 PM on June 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


Go First Lady!
posted by ReeMonster at 9:49 PM on June 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's much easier to target people who might actually feel some shame over their failures.

Again: Sen. Portman et al. Why she chose to target someone so far down the list of people with actual executive, legislative, or judicial power is what's puzzling here. Michelle's husband, the President, held a fundraiser yesterday. I'm sure any of the recent converts to gay marriage support from either party were also easily available. But she chose the person and venue where it seemed to, however inadvertently, maximize an appearance of privilege, something her followup statements seem to reinforce, and didn't seem up on current events for the issue she cares so dearly about.
posted by zombieflanders at 10:09 PM on June 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


Really? I go after the people who actually have promised to help me but have failed, instead of the ones who have promised not to.

Which is why we have the government we have. Conservatives support their allies even when they’re in the wrong, Liberals attack their allies even when they’re doing the right thing, but are judged to be not good enough.

"I’m a better Liberal than you" has ruined many a good cause in the past, and still does. The only saving grace is that the "I’m a better Conservative" contest, which worked really well for a while, is starting to backfire on them and they’re turning on each other.

I am far to the Left of Obama, and am disappointed with a lot of things even knowing that. But if he were running for a third term I would not only vote for him but campaign for him.

It's much easier to target people who might actually feel some shame over their failures.

Again, the easy way, not the right or productive way. My goal is not to shame my allies.
posted by bongo_x at 10:14 PM on June 8, 2013 [10 favorites]


Why she chose to target someone so far down the list of people with actual executive, legislative, or judicial power is what's puzzling here. Michelle's husband, the President, held a fundraiser yesterday.

She didn't choose anything. She got angry and spoke up. I am not clear on why we are assuming she hasn't done any of these other things. It's not like you either get to yell at the first lady or contact a legislator.

Conservatives support their allies even when they’re in the wrong

Conservatives eat their own the moment they disagree. And calling out people for failing to live up to their promises is not attacking, it's insisting on accountability, which is part of the essential quid pro quo of democracy.

My goal is not to shame my allies.

Shame isn't a goal, it's a tactic, and a very effective one. Much of the civil rights movement was based on shaming people out of awful behavior, including liberals who claimed to support equal rights but did nothing to actually support it.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 10:23 PM on June 8, 2013 [6 favorites]


Oh, and I'm really not trying to say that your reading is "racist". But I emphatically agree with the idea that going to a thing where you're not invited to speak, and then being shocked by the response when you inject yourself into the program? What else is that but privilege?

How would you define "privilege" in a way where that's an example of it? I mean, whether or not Sturtz was expecting a more welcoming response, the fact is she didn't get it. Clearly, anyone can use the word "privilege" to mean whatever they want, but if you apply it to Sturtz, then it seems like you're using "privilege" to refer to a purely internal mental state, not any kind of fact about the external world. She might have believed she was entitled to take over the speech, but that notion has now been thoroughly and rightly discredited by Michelle Obama.
posted by John Cohen at 10:44 PM on June 8, 2013


If this was a spontaneous heckle formed in the heat of the moment, then it was seriously unclassy and it would've been nice for Sturtz to apologize for her behavior more than she seems to've. That has nothing to do with silencing protestors or any of that; it has to do with making protestors seem like they have the slightest goddamn awareness of how their actions are perceived by the public.

Once upon a time it was apparently possible to get protestors to all unite and march in fancy places and have a lot of individuals speak their mind in unison and enact change, but that time ended a long time ago. That was a tactic for the TV era, and the pre-CNN-and-FOX era at that. When there were so few broadcast channels that the country could have its attention drawn to a single large-scale event, and that would change the country. Now the world is too unfocused, and what's more, the mode of expressing popular opinion has changed. Large groups of people angrily speaking their minds about a thing isn't this great political/media upheaval—it's YouTube. And opinions are formed, not through stories per se, but through discussions of those stories.

Nobody's gonna read this story in a vacuum. They're gonna talk about it on Facebook, read the comments below whichever news site they prefer. There'll be flamewars and trolls and occasional insights that may or may not be relevant whatsoever. The people involved in that story continue to shape that discussion as it unfolds, and Sturtz's contributions to that only make her seem out-of-touch and self-centered.

Look, you can get away with far ruder behaviors than what Sturtz did if you're able to sincerely, genuinely apologize about it afterwards. In fact, it's a common media tactic to have a public figure/corporation/whatever do something scandalous and shocking, and then surprise the world by proving to be much more grounded and self-aware and reasonable than anybody was expecting. In the process, you can stick to your guns and make any eloquent, nuanced argument you would like, and people'll swallow it whole because they're being tricked into thinking you're giving them an apology.

What you can't do, by contrast, is join a discussion in a way that makes it look like you're self-interested. Precisely because there are so many self-interested voices out there today, people have developed filters that exclude navelgazers and include only those that sound like they're talking about some large, important group, or about the reader/consumer him-or-herself. Why do you think it's so easy to ignore protestors? They're entirely inward-focused. Simply saying "We want this" or "We don't think this is okay" is already limiting the scope of an argument considerably. And for all that Sturtz's opinion is completely, totally, utterly right – Obama's failing to deliver on a promise – her method of delivery, both in the initial heckle and then in her response afterwards, is making her contribution to this cause insignificant at best and hurtful at worst.

Unlike Bunny Ultramod, I am somewhat comfortable in saying this, right now and without waiting to see how this develops, because there are fairly well-understood rules to how people perceive one another, and there is also a fairly well-understood method of how discussions form and evolve among groups of people online, and by those rules and that method this is going to dissolve into noise, even among groups of people who agree with Sturtz entirely. It was impolite, plain and simple. And people're going to criticize Michelle Obama for reacting poorly to a heckler, but personally I thought her response was fine. That's the kind of thing you say to somebody who's just done something obnoxious and immature, and the context of why the immaturity, why the obnoxiousness, doesn't matter a whit.

There are ways to command attention by disrupting somebody else who currently has the floor—this was not that. There are instances where critics of an argument focus on the tone of an arguer and not on the actual argument—this is not that either. This is somebody interrupting the First Lady when they should not have, plain and simple. That that interruption was to state a position which is a generally good position to have doesn't matter. There are wrong ways to say right things, and this was one of them. And I say that as somebody who wholly welcomes the notion of showing disrespect towards authority and civility so long as the person showing disrespect has a plan in mind.
posted by Rory Marinich at 10:58 PM on June 8, 2013 [4 favorites]


"Was it a dinner for trained political insiders who have the power to accomplish her goals? I don't see anything indicating this. It seems like it was a fundraiser to me.

I mean, I guess a case can be made that your participation at a $500 per plate fundraiser is to listen and fork over money. But when I give a politician money, I expect to have a little bit of input into their agenda as well.
"

Oh, so if these aren't trained political insiders (and honestly, that's exactly who goes to these fundraisers), then these aren't people who can accomplish her goals.

Like I said, can't have it both ways.

And you can have input without hectoring the keynote. Not sure why you're so dug in on defending her from people who think this was the wrong thing at the wrong place to the wrong person — you can agree with her goals without agreeing with her tactics.
posted by klangklangston at 11:02 PM on June 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


"Much of the civil rights movement was based on shaming people out of awful behavior, including liberals who claimed to support equal rights but did nothing to actually support it."

Is it your contention that Barack Obama hasn't done a single thing to support LGBT equality? Or that Michelle Obama hasn't done a single thing to support LGBT equality?

Seriously, this is the "Im'a let you finish" of activism. Kanye's dropped some dope jams, but that was a bad look.
posted by klangklangston at 11:10 PM on June 8, 2013 [5 favorites]


Did MLK ever yell at Jackie Kennedy?

Well, Eartha Kitt did yell at Lady Bird Johnson re: Vietnam, and while I admire Miss Kitt's passion and I don't think anyone could at this point say she was on the wrong side of the issue, there's not much sense that the outburst did anything particularly productive.

I feel sometimes like gay political activists, like some other hard leftists, have wittingly or unwittingly created a ghetto for themselves by the fact that they are so often on what they regard as the losing side of an issue. And I say "what they regard as" because they don't seem to accept the concepts of compromise and incremental change: if you give them 90% of what they ask for, with the promise that the remaining 10% will be delivered as soon as practicable, they still define that as a "loss." Ideological purity, it seems, counts more than tangible results.

There has never been a president more pro-gay in spirit than Obama, and no president has delivered so much for gay people. He's on our side, which is why I don't understand heckling him or his representative.
posted by La Cieca at 11:11 PM on June 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Is it your contention that Barack Obama hasn't done a single thing to support LGBT equality? Or that Michelle Obama hasn't done a single thing to support LGBT equality?

No. I don't recall saying that, and it is not my contention.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 11:13 PM on June 8, 2013


In the meantime, while we stupidly call a non-racist a racist, a powerful person remains powerful.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:17 PM on June 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


It sounds like it was an honest response from an audience member at that moment.

It sounds to me like you are indulging in some self-serving mental telepathy.
posted by La Cieca at 11:18 PM on June 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


JimInLoganSquare: You are making a couple of huge assumptions here: a) that the "heckler" is genuinely interested in discussing the issue in a calm manner, and b) that the First Lady can somehow, without preparation and in real time, assess the demeanor and tone of the "heckler" and decide that this is indeed what she (the "heckler") wants.

I don't think it was at all clear that Sturtz wanted a one-on-one discussion with Mrs. Obama; in fact, the statements from her and from her group suggest that the intention of their action was to get garner public attention to their grievances. In other words, it doesn't seem like a dialogue was the goal here.

And even if Sturtz wanted to engage the First Lady one-on-one, how exactly was Mrs. Obama to divine that from her outburst? She likely could not even hear exactly what was being shouted, so how was to judge whether the shouter was making sense or not? (There's also the point that when you're concentrating on making a speech, you have to change gears to start being able to hear what the audience is saying.)

The rule of thumb in dealing with hecklers in general is to make it clear that the floor belongs to the speaker, and one way that's done is to get the audience on the speaker's side by turning them against the heckler. This can be done several ways: the comic insults the heckler so the audience laughs at him as a butt, and if the heckler continues, he may even have the rest of the audience shouting him down. Or (and this is what President Obama does) he pauses and restarts his sentences several times until the heckler begins to run out of steam, at which point again the audience turns against the heckler -- they get bored with the interruption and want to get on with the speech.

Bill Clinton is a genius at this sort of thing, because he can get the gist of what the heckler is shouting, then repeat a detail of what he heard to segue back into his prepared remarks. But, again, Bill Clinton is a genius speaker, and it's foolish to hold anyone else, much less a relatively inexperienced speaker like Michelle Obama, to his standard.

What the First Lady did was not particularly elegant but it was effective: she turned the audience against the heckler and retook the floor, or rather, the audience gave the floor back to her.

As to the balance of power here, I don't know how disenfranchised anyone can be who can get an op-ed piece placed in the Washington Post.
posted by La Cieca at 11:54 PM on June 8, 2013 [13 favorites]


It sounds to me like you are indulging in some self-serving mental telepathy.

Actually, there is a link at the top of this page where she explains her motivations. She says "it was a spontaneous reaction to her saying, 'Right now, today, we have an obligation to stand up for those kids.'"

So I'm just taking her at her word. If you have some evidence that she wasn't being honest or spontaneous, feel free to present it.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 11:59 PM on June 8, 2013


The talk that was interrupted may have been about race but that doesn't make the interrupter automatically a racist.

Somebody needs a big fat dose of Jay Smooth.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 12:22 AM on June 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


So I'm just taking her at her word..

"Honest" and "spontaneous" aren't the same thing. People lie spontaneously almost as often as they lie in a calculated and self-serving manner, the way Sturtz did when she tried to weasel her way out of all this in that op-ed.
posted by La Cieca at 12:31 AM on June 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Shame isn't a goal, it's a tactic, and a very effective one.

Let's see if it succeeds in teaching Sturtz to develop enough self control to not spontaneously blurt out some crap in the middle of a speech by someone else.
posted by jacalata at 12:42 AM on June 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


You meant "What Obama plans to do to extend the Employment Non-Discrimination Act to gays, lesbians, bisexuals and trans people", yes?

Judean People's Front!
posted by Jimbob at 12:43 AM on June 9, 2013 [5 favorites]


Why? People paid to see her talk, not get heckled, do you know how much those fundraisers cost to attend? They ain't cheap.

People who can afford to waste 10,000 dollars on a rubber chicken meal with the first lady are the kind of fuckers who'll be the first down the strawberry mines when the revolution comes. I know you Americans suffer from an over respectful attitude towards authority, but jeez.
posted by MartinWisse at 2:22 AM on June 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


Sturzt comes off as very self-absorbed, even childish, and yes, racist and privileged.
She actually admits that it was the first lady's passionate description of the plight of inner-city youths that triggered her outburst. Really? Really?
Most people in that audience would acknowledge that LGBT people have real problems which should be taken very seriously. The hosts of the fundraiser are a lesbian couple.

However, a 56-year old retired white person who experienced has legitimate problems at her work is in a very different situation from inner-city kids who fear for their lives and their families lives, have real struggles finding means to get educated. I'm surprised anyone can listen to that part of the first lady's speech and be moved to shout out me, me, the way Sturtz did.
But what really makes Sturtz stand out as an idiot is what she did then. The interviews, the op-ed. Goodness.
posted by mumimor at 3:42 AM on June 9, 2013 [14 favorites]


Bunny Ultramod: "As I refer to it as an LGBT issue throughout, I am not clear on why you are singling out the one sentence where I accidentally left off the other two. I assure you, it wasn't intentional, and I regret the oversight, but it seems uncharitable of you to locate one sentence in 100 to lodge a complaint about."

As one of the two letters who get forgotten most often, I tend to be very sensitive to people pretending I don't exist; but in this case, it wasn't a complaint -- I was checking to make sure it was indeed an accidental deletion, rather than a deliberate one. I was asking a question, not complaining. (I was also having trouble parsing the sentence, so I was checking the grammar as well.)

Jimbob: "Judean People's Front!"

Oh, fuck that. If it's silly splittism for me to double-check whether people are including me or not, then I give up. You may not realize it, but the LGBT movement has a strong tendency to be the Gl(bt) movement in effect, if letters after the G get remembered at all; and for people who are not gay to stand up for our issues is not silly splittism, it is survival. (To be clear, Bunny Ultramod does not have that tendency, which is precisely why I asked a question rather than snarking.)
posted by jiawen at 5:14 AM on June 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


The good news I am seeing is that this event got people thinking about the issue Mrs. Sturtz raised, including me - someone who is embarrassed to say he didn't know anything about that issue. So, mostly because of the press about the kerfluffle at the speech, collateral good might have resulted that far outweighs the privileged and (possibly) racist subtext of how she presented that issue.
posted by JimInLoganSquare at 10:18 PM on June 8



They're also not thinking about the issue of those poor kids living in violent conditions on the South Side of Chicago and other places in the US, some of whom might actually be members of America's LGBT population. You know, the ones Mrs. O was trying to draw attention to before Ms. Sturtz made it all about her cause.

There are some people who are going to think that's okay, because the important thing here is that the priorities a white person were listened to over the needs of non-white children.

Ms. Sturtz is an activist. One would think that as an activist, she would be aware of the tension between the ongoing black civil rights movement, and the gay rights movement, and that might have affected how she choose to act at the fundraiser. One would also think that it would have occurred to her that some of those kids Mrs. Obama talked about might be LGBT, as well, and are afraid for their lives, too.


No, but I would react differently to that than if the situation was identical but with the genders reversed, given the complex historical, social, and political interplay between men and women specifically about who gets to talk and who is heard. This is not clear-cut, it is complicated, but it is also not imaginary.
posted by restless_nomad at 10:50 PM on June 8


Restless said it better than I did.

Ms. Sturtz's (AFAIK) is no racist. But that doesn't mean like a lot of good folks she isn't prey to racist thinking. Her response when Mrs. Obama didn't react like a meek pre-Civil Rights era Mississippi housemaid (painting Mrs. O as the aggressor in the incident) is straight out of the "white woman cryin'" playbook, and that's what I take objection to.


In the meantime, while we stupidly call a non-racist a racist, a powerful person remains powerful.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:17 AM on June 9



Once again, I sincerely doubt Ms. Sturtz is racist, but boy howdy, she's been invoking some painfully racist tropes against Mrs. Obama.

This is the thing that a lot of people--liberals and conservatives--don't get. The legacy of racism is still so subtle and pervasive in America that a sincerely non-racist person can still fall into the trap of racist thinking. That's what I think happened here: Ms. Sturtz heckled, and when Mrs. Obama responded, she mentally fled to white-woman-cryin' because she didn't know what else to do. And when Ms. Sturtz--I'm going to assume unintentionally--invokes the image of "Sapphire" when talking about how Mrs. Obama responded, she gets herself some sympathy because that stereotype of black women still has power.


You meant "What Obama plans to do to extend the Employment Non-Discrimination Act to gays, lesbians, bisexuals and trans people", yes?
posted by jiawen at 12:04 AM on June 9 [2 favorites +] [!]

As I refer to it as an LGBT issue throughout, I am not clear on why you are singling out the one sentence where I accidentally left off the other two. I assure you, it wasn't intentional, and I regret the oversight, but it seems uncharitable of you to locate one sentence in 100 to lodge a complaint about.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 12:08 AM on June 9 [2 favorites +] [!]


And now Bunny has a taste of what Mrs. Obama must have felt when Ms. Sturtz called her out.
posted by magstheaxe at 5:37 AM on June 9, 2013 [9 favorites]


And now Bunny has a taste of what Mrs. Obama must have felt when Ms. Sturtz called her out.

No. I do not feel heckled, I understand and respect jiawen's concerns, I shall make every effort to make sure I do not accidentally leave of the BT of LGBT in the future, and were I in a position to sign an executive order, I would do so.

But I appreciate that, rather than engaging any of my points, you went for a gotcha.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 6:18 AM on June 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


*Heckles Bunny*

NOW you know what it feels like. Don't like it. Too bad, there's plenty more where that came from.

*heckles s'more*
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:23 AM on June 9, 2013


Thank you for clarifying, Bunny Ultramod.
posted by jiawen at 6:35 AM on June 9, 2013


But I appreciate that, rather than engaging any of my points, you went for a gotcha.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 9:18 AM on June 9



I actually addressed some of your points upthread, not directly in response to you, but to others.

It is frustrating, though, when people go for the "gotcha", isn't it? That was my point--that Mrs. Obama probably felt a similar frustration when "gotcha'd" by Ms. Sturtz. Only she had the added pressure of being the FLOTUS, and being in front of a lot of people who'd paid some hefty money to be there.

That said, my attempt to prove a point was poorly done, ineffective, and done at the expense of you and jiawen; I was acting like Ms. Sturtz, in other words. I sincerely apologize to both you and jiawen, especially for dismissing and trivializing your concerns.
posted by magstheaxe at 7:01 AM on June 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


It is frustrating, though, when people go for the "gotcha", isn't it? That was my point--that Mrs. Obama probably felt a similar frustration when "gotcha'd" by Ms. Sturtz.

I am not following your metaphor here. I thought jiawen was the heckler, but now you are?

I'm not really interested in having my experience in this thread transformed into some theatrical metaphor for Obama's. I think it is a very bad parallel, and I feel like it turns it away from a discussion about how activists and career politicians (and their politically engaged family members) interact around issues of terrific national importance into a "Here's what it feels like when somebody is rude to you, and if that parallel didn't work, well, then somebody else was rude, and how did that feel?"

So can I ask that we turn the discussion away from how I feel about jiawen's or your behavior in the thread, and back to the actual event that happened, where we don't need to make points by comparison, but instead address the literal event.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 7:19 AM on June 9, 2013 [4 favorites]


Well, politically, someone like a first lady or a chief of staff is generally seen as an an extension of the president with whom they're associated. So, I don't see it as off-limits to heckle one.

What I want to know is, why is this viewed as okay? Why is it okay to heckle a woman for the actions of her husband? Because that is also a dynamic of this. "I don't like what your husband did, so I'm going to yell at you, because you are really just a part of him, after all, so it's totally justifiable."

The First Lady has done no legislative or executive wrong. She is a public person only by virtue of her marriage. She gives speeches, but she doesn't and cannot act on them alone. Aside from the rudeness of the heckling, she is not a legitimate target I saw someone upthread saying she should have known this when she "took the job." Except that she didn't take the job.

Can I be held responsible for the actions of my husband? Should a husband be held responsible for the actions of his wife? Either of those assumes a position of marriage of ownership of some kind - where one person is the "responsible" one and bears responsibility for the other one as well.
posted by corb at 7:35 AM on June 9, 2013 [5 favorites]


If you're out giving speeches, campaigning, and fundraising for your husband then yes, I think it's fair to hold you responsible for his actions at that point.
posted by bowmaniac at 7:45 AM on June 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


But I appreciate that, rather than engaging any of my points, you went for a gotcha.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 9:18 AM on June 9


I don’t know what kind of theater was involved with this exchange, but I do think it’s funny you’re not seeing the irony. People on your side are attacking you because they feel you didn’t do everything correctly, even though you are obviously trying to work for the right cause. Seems counterproductive, and childish, doesn’t it?
posted by bongo_x at 8:41 AM on June 9, 2013 [5 favorites]


Kinda silly to heckle someone over legislation when she has no legislative power.

agreed, but that's not the situation

Ellen Sturtz, calling on President Obama to sign an executive order prohibiting federal contractors from LGBT workplace discrimination.
posted by cupcake1337 at 8:42 AM on June 9, 2013


I suppose you can credit Sturtz for not accusing the First Lady of getting all up in her face.
posted by fullerine at 8:42 AM on June 9, 2013


About the Executive Order: a couple of questions.

Isn't one of the problems with using the Executive Order that it is by its non-legislated nature temporary; that is, the next President in office can revoke or reverse the order with the stroke of a pen? I'm not sure that so important a point as employment discrimination should be left to this tactic: it needs to be legislated law.

And, further, does no one see that among the sequelae of such an Executive Order would surely be blowback from the Right, carefully timed to sway next year's midterm elections? Can you not imagine the glut of stories on Fox News about "homosexual quotas" in hiring, with lots of apple-cheeked southern white people interviewed on how they were cheated out of jobs they deserved (and upon which they and their children depend) because Obama's imperial Presidency forced an agenda of gay affirmative action down the throats of the American people? ("That's right, Bill. Three other people and myself were fired just before the department hired a number of admitted homosexuals."") Are you ready for an election cycle in which Democratic candidates in close races are asked "do you believe in favoritism in hiring sexual deviants for sensitive government positions?"

Also, even with these concerns, have you any concrete proof that the President will never sign such an Executive Order? Wouldn't he be in a stronger position to do so (and to minimize the above-mentioned blowback) if he waited until ENDA is the law of the land?

And, finally, how is it in any way realistic to expect the First Lady, who has no official standing, to comment on the administration's positions on a piece of pending legislation? Or are you so blinkered and cocooned that you really believe such a comment would not be spun into "unelected Queen Michelle attempt to rule by fiat?"
posted by La Cieca at 9:28 AM on June 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


Having read all the comments before clicking on her apologia, the most remarkable thing about this protest to me is that Ms Sturtz is not a blue-haired 21-year-old.

There was never any theoretical positive outcome for this (unless you're a narcissist, I suppose). Not only do most people who agree with you in Democratic politics think you're a kook from the off, but the LGBT movement as a whole is not entirely white and she could hardly have flipped the bird harder to the people who aren't if she'd been trying.

Broadly if your shouty internet comment supporters on either side of something have devolved into a contest about who can scream "PRIVILEGE!" in the other's face the loudest, that really ought to be a sign that the topic under discussion is automatically fucking stupid.
posted by genghis at 9:36 AM on June 9, 2013 [5 favorites]


Vibrissae: "I don't like the fact that Sturtz interrupted the FLOTUS; however, in today's media-saturated world, with strident messages competing for mindspace 24 hours every day, it's easy to imagine an impassioned person doing something like this, because s/he may feel like "how else does one get heard"? "

It'll be interesting to see Sturtz reaction if say Stop Prison Rape activists heckle her during one of her speeches.

MartinWisse: "People who can afford to waste 10,000 dollars on a rubber chicken meal with the first lady are the kind of fuckers who'll be the first down the strawberry mines when the revolution comes."

Sturtz only paid $500.

Also as a Canadian watching this kind of publicity associated with a First Lady (or Gentleman for that matter) is always so surreal. Most Canadians would be hard pressed to even name the Prime Minister's spouse.
posted by Mitheral at 9:55 AM on June 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


David Mitchell has a slightly different take on this in today's column for The Observer:
I listened to the minute or so of Michelle Obama's remarks before Sturtz's interjection and was quite spellbound by how boring it was. She was talking emphatically, and remarkably slowly, about how children matter. Not a controversial notion but, if I'd paid $500 to hear her gradually express it, I might have been irritated enough to take a contrary view. Apparently she'd seen some children in Chicago having a rough time and perhaps thought that, if she made a few minutes of some Democratic donors' lives comparably shit, it might somehow help.
And to go for a Homunculus-style only-tangentially-related-but-what-the-hell type link: For some reason I was reminded of British Prime Minister Jim Callaghan's speech on election night 1979 when he was heckled by a campaigner called Pat Arrowsmith. For context: Callaghan was the prime minister and, although he had just won the election in his own constituency, it was absolutely clear that his party were going to lose to the Tories. He had just spent three years struggling to hold a minority government together. Jump forward to about 5:15 and after for the punchline
posted by Grangousier at 10:26 AM on June 9, 2013


Ellen Sturtz, calling on President Obama to sign an executive order prohibiting federal contractors from LGBT workplace discrimination.

In her follow-ups, she mentions the executive order and ENDA in the same breath, which seems to conflate the two as Presidential powers, and therein lies the problem.

Think of it this way: if ENDA gets passed, then the executive order is moot--I should note that this goes for the language in the immigration bill, too, if DOMA is overturned--and therefore kills two birds with one stone. Obama could go for the order and risk making short-term gains for a limited set of people that could easily be overturned, or he could go for ENDA and ensure something that would be both universal and (hopefully) permanent. As the House GOP is now demonstrating, Obama's incremental step forward via the DREAM-lite executive order may have helped in the short-term, but it's making it easier for the frothing lunatics to kill immigration reform. And if ENDA (and/or immigration reform) doesn't pass? Well, then the GOP rightfully looks like it's being run by modern-day Bull Connors, he can go ahead and sign extremely limited executive orders. In the meantime the GOP will get more and more white, racist, and homophobic while the voters get more diverse, multicultural, and accepting.
posted by zombieflanders at 10:34 AM on June 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


David Mitchell has a slightly different take on this

How providential that given the current dearth of annoying Brits pontificating on American politics, Mitchell should rush into the breach.
posted by La Cieca at 10:45 AM on June 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


when somebody representing Obama gets up and talks about how desperately we all need to support each other, and, in that speech, not one iota of that support is thrown in the direction of the LGBT community, I can understand getting a little heated.

Not every disadvantaged group deserves nor gets a mention every time. I don't at all see that the LGBT community deserves any special mention simply because part of the topic concerns how we should support each other. I've got causes that I support on principle, and ones to which I have a more personal connection. But there aren't any of them such that I think I get to be outraged because they're not mentioned in a context like this.
posted by Fists O'Fury at 10:55 AM on June 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


I can understand getting a little heated

The problem is that now Sturtz is trying to reframe her action as a purely spontaneous outburst, as if she just happened to be at this dinner and she suddenly yelled the first thing that popped into her head. That's simply not true: her group admits that she purchased admission to the dinner specifically with the intention of interrupting the speech as a political action.

Unless the entire text of the First Lady's remarks was made available to Sturtz in advance, there is no way she could know that "not one iota of that support" would be made to the LGBT community in that speech.

GetEQUAL planned to interrupt the speech regardless of its content, so Sturtz doesn't get to claim that her interruption was motivated by the content. Either you take responsibility for a planned political action or you admit you're an irrelevant heckler, but you can't cherrypick from both roles.
posted by La Cieca at 11:09 AM on June 9, 2013 [9 favorites]


Kinda silly to heckle someone over legislation when she has no legislative power.
posted by PenDevil at 6:14 PM on June 8


She heckled not to force change, but too get her fame hungry tendrils into the next day's news.

My guess is she had her "manifesto" typed out and ready to send to news organizations well before her planned heckle opportunity.
posted by four panels at 12:38 PM on June 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


I never fail to be discouraged at how, in a country that prides itself on free political speech and a government of citizens invested in civic action, there are people who will fantasize about somebody shooting a lesbian for demanding fair working conditions at an inopportune time, or will mean-spiritedly imagine the most cynical motivations behind the people who actually speak up.

I get it. You don't like heckling. I don't like shootings and glib cynicism. And I suspect the former actually helps democracy and the latter hurts it.

But we have this same go-round every time a marginalized voice rises and speaks out when they are not welcome. When the women spoke out against Tosh's rape joke, the discussion was universally about how dare she heckle and how bad her tactics were. Never mind that the event actually did force a national dialogue about rape humor that we're still having.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 2:02 PM on June 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


I don't like heckling and I really don't like straw man arguments, so I guess you'll have to have your national dialogue about rape humor without me.
posted by La Cieca at 2:43 PM on June 9, 2013 [8 favorites]


Just draws a gun and puts three bullets in their chest.

She heckled not to force change, but too get her fame hungry tendrils into the next day's news.

I was merely responding to what I read. I suppose I might have also identified the latter as self-serving mental telepathy.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 3:03 PM on June 9, 2013


But we have this same go-round every time a marginalized voice rises and speaks out when they are not welcome.

Really? In this day and age you're going to claim that lesbians seeking equality are marginalized voices?

What would have happened if Ellen DeGeneres had spoken up on her, you know, nationally syndicated program with 4 million daily viewers? The one that has been on for ten years now? She's got better daily viewership than Fox News for god's sake.

At some point playing the victim card just looks silly. Ask american christians.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 3:07 PM on June 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


[Deleted that comment. Wishing violent death on people is not ok here.]
posted by restless_nomad at 3:21 PM on June 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


When the women spoke out against Tosh's rape joke, the discussion was universally about how dare she heckle and how bad her tactics were.

Huh, I remember pages and pages of 'are rape jokes ever ok', not a discussion universally about 'is heckling ever ok'. I guess we read it differently.
posted by jacalata at 3:44 PM on June 9, 2013 [5 favorites]


Huh, I remember pages and pages of 'are rape jokes ever ok'

Shh! You really need to be more sensitive in paying homage to the victim scenario. Don't you realize that victimhood is the most important quality in life, trumping freedom, justice and especially truth?
posted by La Cieca at 3:47 PM on June 9, 2013


bongo_x: "People on your side are attacking you because they feel you didn’t do everything correctly... childish..."

If that's referring to my comment, then that's wrong. Asking a clarifying question is not "attacking", and neither is it "childish".
posted by jiawen at 4:01 PM on June 9, 2013


"Let me just explain how this thing I totally didn't do on purpose would be a good thing if I did it on purpose."
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 4:17 PM on June 9, 2013 [4 favorites]


What? Was that directed at me?
posted by jiawen at 4:19 PM on June 9, 2013


If that's referring to my comment, then that's wrong.

No, it was not referring to your comment. I’m sorry it seemed that way, I was sloppy with my writing.
posted by bongo_x at 10:38 AM on June 10, 2013


Blazecock Pileon: In the meantime, while we stupidly call a non-racist a racist, a powerful person remains powerful.

Citation needed that Stoltz is a non-racist.

We have some evidence she may be racist (as most people are); only you seem to have proof of her lack of racist attitudes.
posted by IAmBroom at 12:32 PM on June 10, 2013


MartinWisse: I know you Americans suffer from an over respectful attitude towards authority, but jeez.
BWAHAHAHAHAHA! Oh, geez!

Wait, you're serious?

Really?

Of all nations on Earth, Americans kowtow too much to authorities?

BWAHAHAHAHAHA!
posted by IAmBroom at 12:38 PM on June 10, 2013


cupcake1337:
[PenDevil:] Kinda silly to heckle someone over legislation when she has no legislative power.

agreed, but that's not the situation

Ellen Sturtz, calling on President Obama to sign an executive order prohibiting federal contractors from LGBT workplace discrimination.
cupcake1337, you are making no sense. Michelle Obama has no legislative power, despite your denial. "President Obama" is her husband. Why you are implying they are one-and-the-same person is beyond ration.
posted by IAmBroom at 12:57 PM on June 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Of all nations on Earth, Americans kowtow too much to authorities?

BWAHAHAHAHAHA!


Since I have yet to see the rioting and burning in reaction to discovering that the government is peering through all our shit and lying about it, yes, I'd go with that. Or go look at the endless slobberfests over cops and firemen.
posted by phearlez at 3:01 PM on June 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


bongo_x: "No, it was not referring to your comment. I’m sorry it seemed that way, I was sloppy with my writing."

Okay, thanks for the clarification. (I seem to be saying that a lot lately. ^_^ )
posted by jiawen at 3:55 PM on June 10, 2013


Of all nations on Earth, Americans kowtow too much to authorities?

BWAHAHAHAHAHA!


Dude you really do. Compare US policing to that of other developed nations (or just Britain if you like) and you'll see that USians accept domination by authority figures every single day, in a manner unthinkable in pretty much any other functional democracy.
posted by howfar at 4:01 PM on June 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


That and, y'know, the whole "God" thing.
posted by howfar at 4:03 PM on June 10, 2013


The word that we Americans call ourselves is...American. USian is a made-up nonsense word like "rama-lama dingdong", please refrain from using it.
posted by MattMangels at 6:14 PM on June 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


There are plenty of opportunities to heckle plenty of other politicians. This situation really seems to me like the drunk guy searching for his keys under the lampost because that's where it's the brightest. For whatever reason Strurz had easy access to this event and decided to take advantage of that rather than considering whether this was the right target or context for her actions.
posted by Deathalicious at 4:41 AM on June 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


MattMangels: The word that we Americans call ourselves is...American. USian is a made-up nonsense word like "rama-lama dingdong", please refrain from using it.
You're really going to be pissed when I tell you my first name isn't "I".
posted by IAmBroom at 11:29 AM on June 12, 2013


The word that we Americans call ourselves is...American. USian is a made-up nonsense word like "rama-lama dingdong", please refrain from using it.

The fact that you've decided you're the only country on two continents is hardly the problem of the rest of the world, now is it? I'd never call myself a "Brit", but I'm happy for you Yanks to carry on using it to your hearts' content. ;)

Slightly more seriously, it is often useful to distinguish US citizens from other inhabitants of the American continents, and I'm not sure why I'd sacrifice a short way of doing that in an international setting like Metafilter where things can signify differently to different people.
posted by howfar at 11:43 AM on June 12, 2013


Compare US policing to that of other developed nations (or just Britain if you like)

British citizens literally shoot down red light cameras? And public CCTVs?
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 12:58 PM on June 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


howfar: " The fact that you've decided you're the only country on two continents is hardly the problem of the rest of the world, now is it? I'd never call myself a "Brit", but I'm happy for you Yanks to carry on using it to your hearts' content. ;)

Slightly more seriously, it is often useful to distinguish US citizens from other inhabitants of the American continents, and I'm not sure why I'd sacrifice a short way of doing that in an international setting like Metafilter where things can signify differently to different people.
"

Oh, look, it's round 9,743,782 of this argument again.
posted by Lexica at 1:24 PM on June 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


"I'd never call myself a "Brit", but I'm happy for you Yanks to carry on using it to your hearts' content. ;)"

For people engaged in the tedious "USian" defense, "Brit" is less appropriate than "wanker."
posted by klangklangston at 2:23 PM on June 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


[If the USian conversation needs to happen again, please take it to MetaTalk. Thanks. ]
posted by restless_nomad at 2:41 PM on June 12, 2013


British citizens literally shoot down red light cameras? And public CCTVs?

I didn't realise that these were people. Evidently your application of the Turing Test is less rigorous than my own. Or maybe you're arguing that widespread gun ownership is a guarantee of freedom. Not sure recent revelations entirely bear that out, but I suppose a patriot knows when to act and when to roll over, supine, before the law.
posted by howfar at 5:19 PM on June 12, 2013


Or maybe you're arguing that widespread gun ownership is a guarantee of freedom.

Actually I'm arguing that direct acts of violence against government surveillance are a daily occurrence in the U.S. As opposed to certain other countries that have the highest CCTV per capita in the world.

Not that the U.S. doesn't have authority issues, just that Britain is a really bad example of someplace that does it better.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 5:57 PM on June 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


ENDA moves to front-burner, picks up 50th Senate cosponsor
Rubio, who said this week he'd oppose his own immigration bill if it protected gay rights, was asked by ThinkProgress yesterday about whether he'd consider backing ENDA. The Florida Republican didn't explicitly denounce the bill, but he left no real doubts about position: "I'm not for any special protections based on orientation."

Asked further about protections based on race or gender, Rubio said that's "established law" and then walked away. Substantively, the senator is correct -- there is "established law" that prevents employers from discriminating on the basis of race and gender, but Congress can change the law to expand those protections.

Indeed, that's the point of ENDA -- to make a new established law to prevent gay people from losing their job just because they're gay. Most Americans assume that it's illegal to fire someone simply for being gay, but those assumptions are incorrect, and it's why ENDA is needed.

Rubio, eager to make the right happy, especially after angering conservatives by endorsing immigration reform, sees equal protection as a matter of "special" protection. Fortunately, there's a growing number of folks on the other side who see this issue differently.

Earlier this week, for example, Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, a centrist Democrat from North Dakota, became an ENDA co-sponsor, a week after Sen. Angus King (I-Maine) added his name to the same list. Last night, the bill picked up an even more notable champion, when Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) became the bill's 50th co-sponsor.

To overcome a Republican filibuster, ENDA will almost certainly need 60 votes, not 50, but the list is steadily growing. In the House, the legislation had 175 co-sponsors as of yesterday, which is also nearing the 218 threshold.

What's more, President Obama has not only endorsed ENDA, he continues to talk about his support for the measure -- at an LGBT Pride Month Reception at the White House last night, the president sounded an optimistic note: "I think we can make [ENDA] happen because after all we've seen over the past four-and-a-half years, you can't tell me that can't happen."
posted by zombieflanders at 7:53 AM on June 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


ENDA Is Back, With Momentum
What makes a Senate revival of ENDA interesting right now is that Republicans who have been on their heels on equality issues of late have for the most part not had to cast actual votes, much less launch or sustain filibusters. Since all but the most hard-core conservatives understand which way the wind is blowing on LGBT acceptance, this isn’t a fight many will welcome. But few will have any freedom from “the base” to do anything other than stand in the trenches and watch their ammunition dwindle.
ENDA May Have a Chance
One would expect that the bill would have no chance in the Republican House, but I'm not so sure; it's not impossible that this could wind up being like the Violence Against Women Act, something so difficult to explain opposing that the House would rather just let it pass than stand in the way. ENDA polls extremely well, with many Americans surprised that employers can fire people based on non-work factors absent of specific laws prohibiting it. I'm never sure how seriously to take that kind of polling, but I can really imagine a lot of Republican Senators being reluctant to filibuster the bill -- and it's even possible to imagine House Republicans wanting to make the bill go away by having John Boehner bring it to the floor for passage (even while they vote against it in order to protect against primary challengers).

No predictions. Just taking note of what really is an amazing change -- that ENDA could have reached the status of motherhood and apple pie (and VAWA) to the extent that politicians may actually fear stopping it.
posted by zombieflanders at 12:29 PM on June 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


Not that the U.S. doesn't have authority issues, just that Britain is a really bad example of someplace that does it better.

Oh certainly, but I think we're talking at cross-purposes here. Britain has all kinds of issues with privacy in particular, to a large degree connected to our odd constitutional situation, but obviously with all kinds of social and cultural implications. However, I was thinking of attitudes to authority figures, rather than the threat of authoritarianism itself. The notion of policing by consent is still widely accepted in Britain and, outside London at least (don't get me started on the Met), is even frequently practised. The general attitude to individual representatives of the state's authority is much less polarised in Britain than in my experience of the US. There is much less deference and fear, and also much less hate, toward police officers. The British acceptance of surveillance culture is, I think, a largely separate cultural phenomenon.

That's a ridiculously crude account of a complex cultural difference, of course. I think I initially expressed myself too flippantly, as the comment I was responding to was also somewhat flippant. I found (and find) it silly that someone should think it ridiculous to believe that US society is often highly deferential to figures of authority.
posted by howfar at 2:37 PM on June 14, 2013


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