The hate that dare not speak its name

Ramona Cunningham, the former head of the Central Iowa Employment and Training Consortium (CIETC), is standing trial now for her alleged involvement in misspending about $1.5 million at that agency.

Writing in the Des Moines Register on Saturday, Marc Hansen is disturbed by the over-the-top hatred for Cunningham, who after all “did not murder, kidnap, rape or torture anyone.” He quotes an anonymous poster on the Register’s website, who fantasized about selling lottery tickets to see who gets to flip the switch to shock Cunningham, and who gets to turn up the voltage.

Ramona rancor goes beyond the Internet, though.

It seeps into radio talk and water cooler conversation. Like mucky river water, it has risen to an unhealthy level.

Where does it come from? Some of it comes from a pervasive distrust of government and the belief that sneaky public servants can get away with anything.

CEOs who work for the big for-profit companies seem to get more love. I’m not even sure Jeffrey Skilling, the evil Enron genius, faced the same level of public ridicule.

No, he didn’t. Nor do the executives of defense contractors who misspend billions in public money attract the same kind of vitriol.

I’ve got the answer for you, Mr. Hansen. Misogyny is driving the Cunningham hate train.

People aren’t posting their violent fantasies about extracting revenge on the men who had a hand in the wrongdoing at CIETC. If the person standing trial were named Robert Cunningham, this would be just another boring story about public servants embezzling funds that should have gone toward serving the public.

Her alleged sexual affairs with men involved in the CIETC scandal are nothing to be proud of, but no one is talking about selling tickets to watch those men get tortured.

Similarly, politics may be a contact sport, but if this year’s hard-fought Democratic nominating contest had involved two men, I do not think the commentary would have degenerated to the level it did. (More on that in this great post by Natasha Chart.)

Many women who voted for Barack Obama have nonetheless been disturbed by the sometimes violent hatred certain Obama supporters have expressed toward Hillary Clinton.

My limited personal experience on the internet also suggests that a small but vocal group of men quickly ratchet up the hate level when a woman is involved.

Last year I used to comment sometimes at the Cyclone Conservatives blog (as did a few other liberals). This was tame stuff. I would point out, for instance, that calling the Democratic health care proposals “socialized medicine” revealed a lack of understanding about the difference between “socialized medicine” (such as the Veterans Administration), single-payer health care (where the government pays but does not employ doctors and run hospitals), and imposing stronger regulations on private health insurers (which is what most of the Democrats proposed).

One or more anonymous posters at Cyclone Conservatives started attacking me in comment threads as a “skanky ho” and so on, and even posted creepy threats about following my children. It was so out of line that Don McDowell, the publisher of Cyclone Conservatives, shut down comments for a few days and issued a stern warning that threatening comments would not be tolerated. I did not observe that kind of response to the male Democrats who sometimes waded into the comment threads at that blog.

Hansen observed,

A man in eastern Iowa kills his wife, his children and himself and people say nice things about him. That’s fine. I’m sure the man had many good qualities.

During the past year or so, though, I can’t remember anyone saying anything nice about Cunningham, who can’t possibly be the worst person in the world.

No, she’s not the worst person in the world. She’s just the kind of person that certain sick minds love having an excuse to hate.

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  • I think you can add Republican partisan bitterness...

    as second on the list after misogyny, in terms of why these people are so wont to trash Ramona.

    I do not disagree with your assessment, dmdem, but I think this is another factor that plays into the story.

    It is as if the Republicans have taken their failing party politics and flagging popularity and transferred it onto Ramona’s shoulders, because there are so few Ramonas and too many Abramoffs in the news today.

    Ramona is a rare target these days, someone the Republicans can point to to defer their own guilt, and distract the public from much more egregious transgressions.

    So the Rush Limpaugh dittohead noise machine that is so healthy in Iowa has put her in their sights and willfully attack her for one reason. She is one of the few targets they can take their desperate potshots at.

    Unfortunately for the flailing R’s, their bitterness reeks of failure mode. The more desperate they become the more desperate their attacks become.

    Mrs. Cunningham is as much a victim as she is guilty. The Republican slime machine has compounded her guilt to comic proportions, and they will tie her to a whipping post as long as the DM print media is willing to join the exaggeration to amp us their falling readership.

    • the Democrat Archie Brooks

      was mixed up in this and has been criticized but not in the same sadistic way that people are going after Ramona Cunningham.

      I do take your points, though.

      And yes, the Register hyped this scandal while relegating other colossal wastes of taxpayer money to the inner pages.

  • Hard to argue with you

    about your core point in this particular case.

    But, I think it is important for us to remember that gender bias works both ways in this country.  Are we all up in arms when it works the other way?  Think about the court & media treatment of female sexual predators and their male counterparts.  Or violent offenders who are female.  Or how courts often treat fathers in custody cases.

    Besides gender, I believe some other factors may have contributed to the Ramona hatred.  Some characters, male or female, make just better villains for a narrative.  Ramona seems to fit that bill pretty well.