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Why Is the Right Obsessed With Castration? | The Nation

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Leslie Savan

Politics, media and the politics of media.

Why Is the Right Obsessed With Castration?

Sarah Palin

Sarah Palin speaks at a campaign rally in Leesburg, Virginia, in 2008.  (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Right-wing pols and militia men seem to be thinking about castration an awful lot lately. In speeches and in campaign ads, they’re threatening to cut off their enemies’ balls, and it’s getting weird.

We can only speculate over why some on the right have castration on their minds. Conservative white males, now a minority in a country led by a black president, are losing their demographic cojones. Maybe they’re threatening their foes with what they fear most—or maybe talking like a mohel allows them to sound violent and still be considered vaguely humorous.

Over at Cliven Bundy’s ranch, the folks fighting federal tyranny (that is, refusing to pay for grazing rights on federal land) are still gathering and making speeches.

“All over this country, we are still staring civil war in its bloody face,” said Mike Vanderboegh, leader of the militia group Three Percenters and author of a novel that allegedly inspired a domestic terrorist plot in 2011. He blames Senator Harry Reid (who’s called Bundy supporters “domestic terrorists”) for inciting civil war against a “free people who are armed and who are willing to use those arms in defense of liberty.” And Vanderboegh warned, “Don’t poke the wolverine with a sharp stick, Harry, unless you want your balls ripped off.” That brought hoots and hollers from the crowd.

Bundy’s boys weren’t the first to thrust the image of torn-off testicles onto the 2014 political stage. That honor goes to a woman, Joni Ernst, “Mom. Veteran. Conservative,” who is running for US Senate from Iowa. As her now famous ad goes, “I grew up castrating hogs on an Iowa farm. So when I get to Washington, I’ll know how to cut pork.” The spot ends with Ernst promising to get tough on the “big spenders” in DC: “Let’s make ’em squeal.”

While Ernst is not a demographically challenged white male, she is of the Sarah Palin school of righteous gals who talk up the kind of casual brutality usually associated with tough dudes. Palin, who recently boasted that “waterboarding is how we baptize terrorists” and who regularly argued that “mom jeans” Obama has no balls, said at a Sunday rally for the pig castrator, “I haven’t been this excited about a candidate in quite a while.”

Bob Quast, whose sister was murdered by her abusive husband, is also running for that Iowa senate seat. To introduce his long-shot candidacy, he says in a web ad called “Got Balls?”: “If you are the sexual predator and sociopath who murdered my sister Lynette, and you come to my front door to do harm to my girls, I’m going to use my Glock. To blow your balls off.” On that line, he smiles and his front tooth sparkles with a predatory gleam.

Holding up a knife and the Glock, Quast then invites Bruce Braley, the presumed Democratic nominee for Senate, to a debate. “Congressman Braley, you have nothing to fear,” Quast says. “I will leave my gun at home, Jodi can leave her knife on the farm, as long as you agree to leave your elite law degree in DC,” an elite law degree being, manhood-wise, the opposite of a gun.

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Even without evoking images of making men squeal like a pig, manhood and its supposed absence permeate politics, of course. It’s just that the more “moderate” emasculators don’t get so earthy about it. David Brooks recently said Obama had “a manhood problem in the Middle East,” and Maureen Dowd taunts him regularly, if more coyly.

Here’s the video of Vanderboegh. When the crowd laughs over the “soap dish” he holds up, the reference is to the legend of an Alabaman woman, Jenny Brooks. According to Right Wing Watch, which distributed the video, “…in Vanderboegh’s telling, [Brooks’s husband and son] were killed by state law enforcement collecting taxes for the Confederate government. According to the tale, Brooks went after the men who had killed her family, killed two of them in return, and turned one of their skulls into a soap dish.”

That was the only body part that Vanderboegh held up.

 

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