Thursday, June 01, 2023

Senator Marcia Blackburn’s Tinky Winky moment. (Tennessee Lookout, June 1, 2023)

The once-Democratic State of Tennessee now has two nutty extremist Republican U.S. Senators,   From Tennessee Lookout:

Blackburn’s Tinky Winky moment

JUNE 1, 2023 5:59 AM
U.S. Sen. Marsha Blackburn at Gov. Bill Lee's second inauguration on Jan. 21, 2023. (Photo: John Partipilo)

 U.S. Sen. Marsha Blackburn at Gov. Bill Lee’s second inauguration on Jan. 21, 2023. (Photo: John Partipilo)

Sometimes radical right culture wars, all on their own, just slip from absurd outrage to self-parody. Perhaps the most famous moment was in 1999 when Moral Majority Founder Jerry Falwell proclaimed the purple preschool Teletubby, Tinky Winky, was gay.

Tennessee’s U.S. Sen. Marsha Blackburn in mid-May had her own Tinky Winky moment when she teamed with Texas Sen. Ted Cruz—rarely a good idea on any matter. The pair of Republican Senators wrote to Brendan Whitworth, Chief Executive Officer of Anheuser-Busch and chair of the Beer Institute, about Bud Light’s dealings with transgender actress and social media personality Dylan Mulvaney.

Blackburn and Cruz declared that Mulvaney’s online content “clearly presents a faux, pre-pubescent girl persona that is created and presented to specifically appeal to young viewers.”  This, they claim, conflicts with beer industry self-regulation against marketing to underage persons. 

One has to marvel at all the staff work that must have gone into the five-page, single-spaced letter, notably its deep dive into Mulvaney’s online works, social media audience demographics and beer marketing guidelines. The letter’s opening vaguely warns of congressional oversight, and ends with a laundry list of documents, some real and some perhaps imagined, that Blackburn and Cruz demanded to be provided to them.

The letter went so far as to compare the Mulvaney endorsement arrangement to the “Joe Camel” cigarette advertisements. Among the many differences, of course, is that Dylan Mulvaney is a real person—an actress, comedian, and social media personality, one known for detailing, starting in early 2022, her male-to-female gender transition. The letter, just for bad measure, five times uses “he” or “him” in reference to Mulvaney.

If U.S. Sens. Marsha Blackburn truly wants to look at the marketing of dangerous products to children, perhaps she could join President Joe Biden’s call upon the Federal Trade Commission to examine gun manufacturer marketing to children, including the use of social media influencers. 

Any casual reader of this letter, however, might wonder how this endorsement arrangement is any different from any beer-endorsing cis-gendered athlete whose social media footprint, activities, promotions, and video game presence all have significant crossover appeal to underage persons. There isn’t any difference.

Blackburn and Cruz appear just to be extending the shelf life of the trans-slamming foolishness that started with Nashville musician and operator of an eponymous honky tonk, Kid Rock, shooting at cans of Bud Light but ends with more nonsense on congressional letterhead.

The letter closes with Cruz and Blackburn signatures, over the identification of him as ranking member of the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation; and for her as the ranking member of the Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, and Data Security. They likely will stay as the ranking minority members of these committees if they persist in this thinly-veiled prejudice and hate.

If Blackburn and Cruz truly want to look at the marketing of dangerous products to children, perhaps they could join President Joe Biden’s call upon the Federal Trade Commission to examine gun manufacturer marketing to children, including the use of social media influencers. Their work could start with the JR-15, a recently introduced kids’ version of the AR-15 rifle.

Instead, as gun violence rages and Congress careens toward a self-inflicted and economy-wrecking default, Tennessee’s senior U.S. Senator has wasted our time with culture war trash. Blackburn and Cruz give us a contrived “clutch the pearls, think of the children” charade.  Fortunately, we have available to us the current Children’s Defense Fund Action Council legislator ratings, tracking more than 900 congressional bills.

Blackburn and Tennessee’s other Republican U. S. Senator, Bill Hagerty, both got a grade of D (as did Ted Cruz, by the way.) Tennessee’s sole Democratic congressman, U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen from Memphis, received an A. Tennessee Reps. John Rose, Andy Ogles, and Mark Green received a grade of C, often with little legislative action helping or harming children.  Reps. Tim Burchett, Chuck Fleischmann, and David Kustoff apparently have done more harm than good, scoring a D. The records of Reps. Diana Harshbarger and Scott DesJarlais were so distressing regarding children that each received a failing grade.

Children face real threats such as underfunded schools, gun violence in schools, excess reliance on standard testing, food insecurity, and inadequate social mobility resources.  They do not need to be props or excuses in Marsha Blackburn legislative performance art.


Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

Mark Harmon

Mark Harmon is a professor of journalism and media at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.


No comments: