Political pundits in Australia have it difficult sometimes. When your job requires making politics engaging—even outrageous—to the public, it’s taxing when the source material is so monumentally boring. Cast your mind over the past few months. The most interesting talking point Canberra has yielded has revolved around a ute. Did Kevin Rudd obtain this ute legally? Who has seen the documents related to this ute? Does the ute still exist? Where is the ute now? The ute, the ute! Man, it was tedious. While a politician like Silvio Berlusconi was lustily spreading his gonorrhea throughout the womenfolk of Italy, we had Utegate and photos of Thérèse Rein working out in a gym. What were you supposed say about that?
Of course, US columnists and pundits get a far better deal. In America, where politics is all about showbiz, it follows that the commentators are razzle-dazzle too. They’re uniformly explosive on-screen talent, and push out thick, brick-like New York Times bestsellers in their spare hours. By far, the most entertaining pundits are conservative, the type whose opinions are so incendiary, they border on vilification. Our lot just pale in comparison.
Australia’s Alan Jones might not be a handsome man, but he has nothing on American Rush Limbaugh, who is not just hideous, but exquisitely, over-the-top, really fucking ugly, like a cadaver stuffed full of hamburger meat and placed in front of a microphone. Our laser-eyed Janet Albrechtsen would wilt next to the steely, Village-of-the-Damned glamour of Ann Coulter. Hell, next to Coulter’s sustained beliefs that America should be 100% Christian, Miranda Devine’s musings on hijabs seem tame by comparison.
However, my favourite American conservative commentator right now is Michelle Malkin, a hypnotic, shrill train-wreck of a creature who’s impossible not to watch. It’s hard to describe Malkin with words alone, although the women behind Asian-American news blog Disgrasian have attempted to do so valiantly, describing Malkin as such:
Michelle Malkin has always reminded me one of those yappy little dogs that has suffered the sad, ugly, unfortunate fate of too much inbreeding. The constant, annoying bark but noticeable lack of bite. The oddly shrunken, slightly fucktarded face.
Perhaps this is a little unfair. For starters, I am unsure as to whether Malkin’s parents are actually related. And from what I can tell, Malkin seems quite attractive. Even as a homosexual myself, I cannot take my eyes off her, partly because Malkin’s pretty, and partly because there’s some gland inside me that reacts to seeing an Asian—any Asian—with a broadcast media platform. It’s this same gland in me that’s triggered off whenever I see Penny Wong on The 7.30 Report, or old footage of John So cutting a ribbon in Melbourne, or watching Poh being interviewed on Masterchef.
But Michelle Malkin clearly has a different deal altogether. As a first-generation American with Filipino parents, she is that rare creature in American political punditry: the ultra-conservative ethnic minority. While her cultural heritage means she’s one of us, she’s also a woman who has—amongst other things—advocated racial profiling of Arabs and Muslims post-9/11, defended America’s use of Japanese internment camps in World War II, and insisted the Obama administration is one of the most corrupt in American history—a bit rich, considering the US is only just coming out of the Bush era. At least on one occasion, she has also referred sarcastically to her “fellow Asian-Americans” as “dishwashers” and “people who can’t even speak English”:
It’s difficult to know what to make of something like that this. The first time I saw Michelle Malkin on Youtube, I thought my brain had melted. It’s the same sensation I experience when I see young gay men campaigning for Australia’s Liberal Party in their Ralph Lauren polos and Gucci shades. Why lobby for a party that actively works against your interests? I wonder. Do you support this party, because you—deep down inside—hate yourself?
It’s a question that’s been levelled at Malkin a lot. Some might suspect that with those dishwasher-related comments, Michelle Malkin hasn’t ever experienced racism directed her way before. However, in addressing a US college audience once, she told the crowd, “I mean, look at me. I’ve been called a Jap, Chink, Gook, Dog-eater.” Ever since she’s been on television and bestseller lists, those racial insults have become even more intense. Much of the hate mail she receives—and a lot of it would be from people who call themselves small-L liberals—is race-based, and racist.
In some perverse way, Malkin’s influence can be seen as affirming and positive. Young people—predominantly conservative and from middle America—are becoming interested in politics because of her. She’s racked up over 29,500 Facebook fans, and now has close to 4,000 members of Facebook user-created fan-groups. (In contrast, members of the “I Hate Michelle Malkin and Everything She Stands For” group stand at a measly 317 members.) And since Barack Obama’s election victory, one of the most repeated comments from within the Republican movement is that they need to embrace diversity in order to survive. Michelle Malkin’s presence sends a clear message out there: “Look! People from marginalised demographics can be conservative douchebags too! We are everywhere!”
Still, I’m not convinced this is progress. Without sounding too graphic, all pundits like Michelle Malkin prove is that arseholes really do come in every colour of the rainbow, including yellow. But go forth with my blessing, Michelle. Continue to horrify me with your views on Arabs and Muslims, and annoy me with your insistent “Did you read the book?” every time a journalist or television presenter asks you a question about your research. At the very least, you’ve proved Asians and Asian-Americans can be racist, reactive losers too, and this is a good lesson to learn. After all, we are a varied and diverse people.