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Tuesday: Disgusting

Awhile back, when the Occupy Movement was at its zenith, I speculated on why the naysayers were concentrating on the cleanliness aspect of occupation sites:

Speaking of theories, I have a new one about Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS ads against Elizabeth Warren and other Democratic Senate candidates.  It has to do with cleanliness.  This is based on a limited number of data points but if the hard core Fox News lovers I know are any indication, there are lot of people who are very fastidious about their bodies.  Chalk it up to a long gone era when virginity was prized (for some weird reason that bears no resemblance to reality) and nice girls didn’t indulge in unorthodox sexual activity.  Home Ec was not an elective.  Fastidiousness, cleanliness, keeping one’s personal habits and thoughts tidy or at least being ashamed of them- all very important.  Holy hemiola!, have you ever heard one of them go off about homosexuality??  It’s all about the dirtiness, *physical* dirtiness, that they dislike.  Now, I’m not sure that the typical Fox News viewer always felt this way about a little filth but for some reason, they are now.  Some conditioning from 5 decades ago has been pricked and Rove knows how to work it.  And just think about all that mud at Woodstock…

This is the video from the Crossroads foundation:

Looks like I was on to something.  Yesterday, an article in the NYTimes explained our human reaction to disgusting things and how that reaction can be used politically:

Disgust is the Cinderella of emotions. While fear, sadness and anger, its nasty, flashy sisters, have drawn the rapt attention ofpsychologists, poor disgust has been hidden away in a corner, left to muck around in the ashes.

No longer. Disgust is having its moment in the light as researchers find that it does more than cause that sick feeling in the stomach. It protects human beings from disease and parasites, and affects almost every aspect of human relations, from romance to politics.


Speaking last week from a conference on disgust in Germany, Valerie Curtis, a self-described “disgustologist” from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, described her favorite emotion as “incredibly important.”

She continued: “It’s in our everyday life. It determines our hygiene behaviors. It determines how close we get to people. It determines who we’re going to kiss, who we’re going to mate with, who we’re going to sit next to. It determines the people that we shun, and that is something that we do a lot of.”

It begins early, she said: “Kids in the playground accuse other kids of having cooties. And it works, and people feel shame when disgust is turned on them.”

Some studies have suggested that political conservatives are more prone to disgust than liberals are. And it is clear that what people find disgusting they often find immoral, too.

It adds to the popularity of disgust as a subject of basic research that it is easier to elicit in an ethical manner than anger or fear. You don’t have to insult someone or make anyone afraid for his or her life — a bad smell will do the trick. And disgust has been relatively easy to locate in the brain, where it frequents the insula, the amygdala and other regions.


If you found yourself initially sympathizing with the Occupy Movement but stayed away from the sites because you found yourself disgusted with the thought of coming in contact with filth, lice and STDs, you’ve been pwned by some savvy political operatives who were probably retained by the 1% to trash the reputation of the nascent movement.  Granted, some of those sites weren’t allowed access to toilets and their campsites were crude.  But I never witnessed mounds of trash or vermin in Zuccotti park when I visited the site on multiple occasions.  In fact, it was kept very clean with makeshift recycle stations made of recyclable cardboard and broom stands.  Once I detected the scent of pee in one corner of the park but at the GA that evening, the issue was addressed: If you have to pee in the middle of the night, get your ass out of your sleeping bag and go find an open bathroom.  Don’t pee in containers.

I now suspect that the feelings of disgust were very deliberately generated in the media and youtube videos in order to keep people from going down to the occupation sites and seeing that the Occupiers were just ordinary, everyday people.  That’s the last thing the small evil group to which no one we know belongs wants.  They don’t want us to mingle and start sympathizing with each other.  That would mean visitors would go back and tell their friends and they would bring two people and so on and so on.  Nooooo, that’s not a good thing.  Too many people feeling a sense of community against the 1%?  Before you know it, they would be turning off their TVs, feeding the poor, sympathizing with the unemployed and demanding the immediate arrest and indefinite detention of the bankers who are perched on Wall Street thinking they are untouchable by the long arm of the law.  Obama might have to *do* something about it.  We can’t have that.

By the way, the NYTimes is particularly good at making us disgusted with the unemployed.  They perfected the front page story of the unemployed that featured middle aged, obese and unattractive women.  Well, who wants to be one of *those* people?  It’s sort of a carry over from the days when trashing Hillary supporters as being middle aged, uneducated, working class women ala Roseanne Barr.  It makes it so much easier to f%^& them over when you think of them as low class losers, right? If you are wondering why there is so much antagonism towards the unemployed, you can thank the New York Times for doing its part. In fact, I don’t know anyone who looks like the people the Times featured as the typical unemployed person, including myself.  Everyone I know who is unemployed is a former labrat with a fistful of degrees and none of them have a severe weight problem, lank, greasy hair or a slovenly appearance.

I expect to see more of this kind of thing.  I think the researchers are right about conservatives being more sensitive to disgust and it’s relationship, in their minds, to immorality.  Conservatives are easily disgusted by the thought of sex between men and sex in general.  Oral sex?  Instantly generates a gag reflex in them.  (In fact, I don’t like giving advice to Republicans but if anyone’s interested in taking Gingrich out of the running, they might want to repeat the stories about him getting blow jobs in the front seat of his car.  It will turn women over the age of 70 right off of their Newters kibble.) It doesn’t help that they get messages from their religious authorities about how dirty fornication is. Think “Purity Balls”. This is something you will probably not be able to overcome in the social conservative’s mind.  It’s so hardwired from decades and decades of guilt tripping and punishment and an almost Pavlovian conditioning linking filth with sex that it’s just not worth the effort.

Frankly, I don’t know *what* will finally be the thing that gets through to them.  What will it take before they realize that their own upbringing, generational history and backgrounds have  been used against them to create the most unequal distribution of power and wealth this country has ever known?  I have no idea but I’d hate to find out.

12 Responses

  1. it is amazing how many people who will complain about the government working only for the rich and how they are getting screwed etc…. and yet when you explain to them that the ows is FOR THEM, they don’t get it. All they see is a lot of law breakers who should be arrested.

  2. When we visited MacPherson Square and Freedom Plaza, there was nothing disgusting at all. No piles of garbage.

    Of course, the characterization of “the other” as vermin worked quite well for Joseph Goebbels, which is no doubt why our famously free press is pushing that line.

  3. After the Congressional Democrat leaders declared the Tea Party movement as racist and un-American it’s perfectly normal for them to discredit OWS , that Nancy Pelosi supports, in any manner they can.

    I think the biggest problem with the OWS movement is that it is focusing on the symptom of inequality of income distribution within our society rather than focus on the cause of it. And that would be the bought and paid for political stooges on both sides of the aisle that allow the inequality in the first place because they benefit from it.

    Our government is not representative of the people. Both parties are liars and cheats.Change that and many problems work themselves out.

    Personally, the OWS event in SF over the weekend soured me on the movement. I do not believe that violence (throwing bricks) and contempt for someone else’s religion (throwing bibles) are viable, legitimate tools of change.

    I know you do not support violence. It’s just that we don’t need Bill Ayers and his ilk stirring up shit.

    • I don’t know about Bill Ayers but agent provocateurs? Yep, OWS is probably unknowingly harboring some.
      As for the symptoms and the cause, I used to think that we have to target the rulemakers. In fact, we have to take them on if we want to turn things around. We need to vote out as many of them as possible.
      HOWEVER, to do that, we have to raise awareness of the problem of money in politics and where it comes from. There has to be a movement. That is the purpose of OWS, to generate a sense of purpose, raise awareness and turn attention to the origin of the inequity we are experiencing. And the last thing TIIC want is for us to get together and talk or get together and just stand there, united against the gobs of obscene money flowing into the campaign coffers of our elected officials. Because there is one thing that has been shown over and over again: YOUR representative is corrupt, mine is probably ok. And anyway, he/she is an incumbent. We have to overcome that attitude and show that the 1% are in the US Congress and they have very little concern for the rest of us.

      • I completely agree with you. But the movement is being cast as being opposed to those greedy Wall Street types while the tentacles reaching in and out of the government are ignored. Whether this is being caused because of the media or the decentralized message of the movement (or both) the focus needs to be on those critters in DC.

        I honestly don’t believe that either party is interested in reform.

        We don’t just need a movement, we need a party.

      • I think we are impatient and try too often to put the cart before the horse. Everyone knows that we need to replace our lawmakers but some want to prematurely jump on it before there’s a mandate to do it and some common cause to unite behind. Until we get everyone on the same page, we will not make any progress. And that means we have to be careful and strategic about how we go about uniting people. That means leaving politics and religion off the table for awhile. It sounds odd but I think we’ve all seen what happens when we try to do something without laying the groundwork for uniting ourselves. When that happens, it’s too easy for the bad guys to separate us based on our own particular interests.
        I think OWS is a pretty good place to start and that they have the right message to unify behind. Once we all agree on the common enemy and the need to do something about it, then we can talk about political solutions.

        • It sounds odd but I think we’ve all seen what happens when we try to do something without laying the groundwork for uniting ourselves. When that happens, it’s too easy for the bad guys to separate us based on our own particular interests.

          It doesn’t sound odd to me. In fact it happened shortly after August 28th, 2008. It began on May 31st, but the “unity” of PUMA fractured during the convention. At least it did for me.

  4. Must be why so many Republican’s hate the working class schmo. Hard work entails getting dirty, smelly and sweaty. I guess the same can be said for the so called “liberal elite”. After all, remember what that creepy Harry Reid said about the visitors to Congress.

    • Yes, you are definitely on to something. My own experience in the corporate world is that the executive and office people looked down their noses at those of us who go into the labs and touch disgusting things with our hands. We have to work with smelly, ugly looking chemicals and we have to play with bacteria and insect cells and animals. Sometimes, it’s just gross, right? I mean, who wants to have the job of cleaning out the cages or injecting stuff into a canula imbedded into a rat’s brain or growing petrie dishes full of e. coli? What kind of person does that disgusting stuff?? They’re not fit for the company of people who worry about whether their suits are not more than two seasons old and that they’re hair is perfectly in place. The corporate guys think rather well of themselves as a consequence and rather poorly of the schmucks who make their bonuses possible.

      • Yep. Disgust from people sucking on big cigars and snorting lines of coke in the executive privy while waiting for the $1k bareback hooker to arrive for a session on the well-worn CEO casting couch. Uh ‘scuseme. Rant button reset.

    • What did Reid say? Any links back to it?

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