Mumm Not Yet the Word on Parade or, Ode to False Equivalence
Just when we thought the digital waters were safe from more Mummer-gazing (at least until the annual puff-piece profiles get going again in December), local writer Thom Nickels went and rehashed some of the conversation at The Huffington Post.
In “Thou Shalt Not Wear a Native American Headdress,” published this week, Nickels didn’t address the Ferko String Band’s controversial “Bringin’ Back Those Minstrel Days” performance. Instead, Nickels focused on “Indi-insourcing,” the already much-discussed Venetian New Year’s Association skit that featured men costumed as Indians and Native Americans.
Nickels’ post opens with an assertion that in Philadelphia, the politically correct crowd is on “the warpath” (see what he did there?) over the performance. He discusses his fond memories of playing Indian in boyhood, distills all criticism of the skit to disapproval of the headdresses, and blames “the fashion and design industry” for making white people wearing headdress seem racist. But this seems to be his point:
Sometimes it’s fun to worry about inconsequential minutiae, but the fact is Native headdresses have been part of the Mummers for decades. Since the Mummers are about feathers, it should come as no surprise that some brigades would opt to use a Native headdress as part of its ensemble.
An important thing to remember when viewing the comic brigades is Jonathan Swift’s famous line: “Nothing is above satire.” This may be hard to swallow in our super hypersensitive age when good comedy sometimes takes a back seat to (yawn) sanitized political correctness. Unfortunately, we live in an era when people become “outraged” at the drop of a hat and at all the wrong things.
Here, can’t you just feel the false-equivalence argument coming on? You know — that lazy, clumsy rhetorical device that attempts to diminish the validity of discussion of an issue or topic by juxtaposing it with a completely unrelated topic. That new, randomly chosen topic has to be Obviously More Important than the initial topic in order to make the initial conversation seem ridiculous, by comparison. The bigger the disparity, the thinking goes, the better. So here we go, this one’s a beaut:
Consider this: where was the outrage when President Obama signed the NDAA into law, which gives the government the right to arrest any American citizen and deprive them of legal representation after that arrest? Isn’t this what they do in Red China, and what used to happen in Soviet Russia?
Instead, people are “outraged” because a few drunken white men danced in a circle wearing makeshift American Indian headdresses.
Oh my god. The very future of the country hath been threatened, and here we are discussing racial and ethnic representation in a parade. Surely people who have wasted such precious and finite resources such as their own time and energy and all those barrels of Internet ink should have expended all of that toward writing about passage of the National Defense Authorization Act.
I wonder, though, why this admonishment doesn’t ever seem to extend to the architect of the false-equivalence argument, the one who noticed this horrific waste of time, then chose to waste more time pointing out that it wasn’t worth anyone’s time?
If there are bigger fish to fry, then go fry them. After all, the very future of our country depends on it!
Meanwhile, an outlet called Indian Country Today Media Network wasted more time just yesterday by weighing in on Nickel’s HuffPo piece.