"a fish, a barrel, and a smoking gun"
for 8 December 1998. Updated every WEEKDAY.
"It's Wednesday, where's Filler!!?!" A good question, with an answer guaranteed to disappoint: It's not coming. Thanks to a power blackout that left all of San Francisco unplugged for most of Tuesday, the crack Suck production staff was unable yesterday to copyedit, code, tweak, spindle, and fold the fresh Filler we all expected to know and love today. We promise things'll be back to normal tomorrow. Until then, why not chew on some day-old content or re-read last week's Filler or browse the Filler archive and remind yourself just how cruel life can sometimes be.

- Sucksters

Trance Mission



Hostile aliens crowd the

streets, controlling the minds

of the feckless human hayseeds

with manipulative billboards and

newspaper ads. And only Rowdy

Roddy Piper can see them!


The Piperman took care of that

problem, of course, and in high

style. But new iterations of the

alien mind-control problem keep

popping up. The hapless Ted

Bundy, to name an example we all

remember, was forced to murder

women after deviant (and

clearly extraterrestrial)

operatives from the likes of the

Flynt Publishing empire planted

lascivious photographs under his

nose. Bundy was - as he

helpfully explained, shortly

before being sent back to the

mother ship by unforgiving

employees of the Florida

correctional system - powerless

to resist as the consumption of

sexual images made him become

sexually violent, pretty much

entirely without his own active

participation. The various

ayatollahs of both the religious

right and the loopy

academic-feminist fringe warmly

embraced the serial killer's

insightful causative theory.


More recently - just about three

years ago - tens of thousands of

children were placed at risk

because of a silkscreen T-shirt

tacked to a wall. The offending

outerwear hung in a public

library in suburban Los Angeles,

where unsuspecting librarians

permitted local community groups

to display such deceptively

innocent-sounding items as

"books" and "posters." This

worked fine until a group called

Catalyst reserved the display

cases: Catalyst, it turns out,

was a gay and lesbian

organization, and their books

and posters made shameless

references to (gasp!) their own

deviant lifestyle; there was

even a photograph of two men

holding hands.


Predictably, if pathetically,

the usual suspects reacted in

the usual way, swarming down on

a city council meeting to warn

about "recruiting" and the

threat to decent families. City

council members scratched their

chins and expressed a promise

to, like, have city staffers

look into it, but one councilman

informed his colleagues that

he'd already looked into the

matter personally. Some of the

propaganda, he warned, including

the T-shirt emblazoned

shamelessly with a pink

triangle, hung dangerously close

to (cue thunder) the children's




And you know how that nasty

little bit of recruitment

technique works: Here's little

Johnny on his way to the

library, toting his homework in

a Boy Scout book bag. He takes a

table in the main hall, works

diligently on the appropriate

basics (phonics, applied

mathematics, the aphorisms of

President Reagan), and decides

to end his study session with a

little spadework in the Old

Testament. He's kicking ass in

Deuteronomy when he feels the

burn in his eyes from too much

reading. He looks up to rest his

virginal peepers. And then, in a

flash, it's all over. He catches

a glimpse of an oddly alluring

geometrical symbol - and is

instantly struck gay.


Living in that town at the time,

and covering the recruitment

controversy in a previous

lifetime as a reporter, of

sorts, a certain Suck

contributor found himself openly

rolling his eyes at the

they're-after-our-kids crowd. We

were pretty sure they were

channeling General Ripper:

afraid of foreign,

purity-sapping active

ingredients in seemingly inert

packaging, which can't be

resisted because you don't even

know you've consumed them.

"Homosexual speech," the

argument went, causes

homosexuality. It was a notion

we mocked with vicious,

consistent glee.


And so it's awfully strange,

three years later, to finally be

hearing the echo from the other

side of the canyon.


Matthew Shepard, the University

of Wyoming student who, in

October, was murdered in

particularly horrifying style,

quickly lost his specificity as

a victim. In rallies and

speeches (and breathtakingly

lame newspaper columns) across

the country, he became an

illustrative gay man killed in

typical fashion by a homophobic

culture. As Tony Kushner calmly

explained in The Nation: "Trent

Lott endorses murder, of course;

his party endorses murder, his

party endorses discrimination

against homosexuals and in doing

so it endorses the ritual

slaughter of homosexuals." And

the Senate majority leader had

an accomplice. Kushner also

calls the pope "a homicidal

liar" who directly led Shepard's

killers to commit the crime -

by, for example, refusing to

ordain openly-gay priests.

("Let's follow the lead of the

crazies who killed Matthew

Shepard and take the Pope at his




Despite the high-school-poetry

phrasing ("And then, after we've

drawn a few skin-prickling

breaths of the aroma of torture

and agony and madness, we shift

a little in our comfortable

chairs....") and the omission of

any evidence at all that

Shepard's killers were either

Catholic or even vaguely aware

of Trent Lott's existence,

Kushner's argument is only about

half-wrong. But this particular

brand of misguided and

oversimplified blame strikes us

as just another example of that

common condition in which the

clear-eyed observer sees the

manipulative intent behind the

media item, while all the other

poor, dumb bastards can't help

but fall into the trap; everybody

else is tragically susceptible to

papist mind-control techniques

and the pernicious voodoo of

dangerous, unstoppable

smoothies like Newt Gingrich.


In Kushner's turgid fantasy,

Little Johnny is on his way to

the mailbox with his check to

Lambda when his eyes fall on a

pamphlet fluttering in the

gutter. The next thing he knows,

he's lurking about the streets

of West Hollywood with a

baseball bat and a shaved head.

He's helplessly struck

homophobic by a bit of Q&A with

some shithead who got himself

elected to the Senate.


Back when Trent Lott was still

in knee-pants, Eric Hoffer tried

to make sense of 40 million

World War II dead and the other

mounting casualties of the

century - despite the fact that

he'd never directed a single

movie. Hitler and Stalin moved

masses with hate speech, Hoffer

allowed, but only because the

people who formed those masses

were looking to be moved. "A man

is likely to mind his own

business," he wrote, "when it is

worth minding."



The men charged with Shepard's

murder, Aaron McKinney and

Russell Henderson, might as well

have been lifted straight out of

Hoffer's 1951 book The True

Believer. The "vast ennui" and

"unwanted self" described by

Hoffer is all over the picture:

Both were marginally employed

high school dropouts; McKinney

was hospitalized at the age of

8, after a drinking binge, and

locked away in a detention

center six years later for

stealing a cash register. Last

year, aiming high, he pleaded no

contest to another theft charge

after being caught robbing a

Kentucky Fried Chicken store.

("Drop them biscuits and show me

your hands.") In the days after

McKinney's arrest for the attack

on Shepard, his father handed

out unfortunate quotes to any

reporter who asked: "Aaron was

pretty much on his own at 17,"

for example, and "Aaron hates to

be embarrassed more than

anything," bad news if you're a

young gay man and Aaron thinks

you're hitting on him in a bar -

in front of his friends.

Neighbors of both men described

the experience of living next-

door in less-than-glowing terms.

Henderson, the Denver Post

reported, had put in some time

as an employee at a Taco Bell

with his neighbor's children,

but was still a problem

neighbor, "often firing bottle

rockets into her yard, throwing

beer bottles, and once starting

a brush fire."


But if only Trent Lott had kept

his mouth shut, right? These two

would probably have been Matt

Shepard's best buds, buying him

drinks and stuff, driving around

with the radio on. Hey, you know

what, Matt? You're all right,



We remain willing to hear

arguments to the contrary, but

if recent history offers an

accurate picture, hate speech

mostly causes big surprises at

the polls. And that's no crime.

courtesy of Ambrose Beers