To satisfy a US moral standard, the image of a naked woman’s breast must first be doused in blood. The great stand-up Lenny Bruce said this (or something like it) so often, comedy nerds have been misquoting it for more than half a century. Bruce’s preoccupation with nude boobs notwithstanding, he made a good point at the time: America sees obscenity in intimacy, but not at all in war.  

This was true for Vietnam, the war that would inform Bruce, and was arguably true in 1998 when president Bill Clinton’s almost forgotten strikes in Baghdad coincided with the Monica Lewinsky “scandal”. Irish newspaper The Examiner ran with the headline “Lewinsky affair apparent in phallic missile deluge on Baghdad”. Sure, this is more florid and more Freudian than James Joyce on an especially emotional afternoon, but it doesn’t contradict more scholarly accounts of the Desert Fox raids, which came to be known as Monica’s War.

We should name this deadly invasion for the former intern no more than we should blame her for Clinton’s impeachment. For the impeachment, for the forgotten war and for the diminished Western reputation of cigars, we can blame Clinton. But, we can’t let that puritanical US hypocrisy Bruce described go free. It was Clinton’s choice to enact violence. But it was the US tradition to prefer that obscenity over a naked breast.

Perhaps it remains the US tradition. Even today, as tensions increase between Trump and the nation he might not have colluded with, US media buoys that custom of disgust for naked women. The actor Stormy Daniels, who has made allegations about US President Donald Trump, continues to produce headlines and moralising fits. Liberal outlets worry most for this wayward woman.

In The Washington Post we find a paternalistic portrait of a woman too naïve to name her abuse. The writer frets that Daniels is just not bright enough to know that she’s been done, both by Trump and by the adult film industry, in which she continues to work. Daniels has been clear that she is not a victim, and the Post is generous enough to call that her “prerogative”. Not so generous that they will also call it her truth. Today, a woman who told 60 Minutes that she would not “further someone else’s agenda” is dismissed as deluded by the Post.

Just how such condescending focus is made possible within the imagination of so many liberal writers is a mystery. Daniels is a woman who is a danger to Trump, who declares that she is not a victim, who will not further someone else’s agenda and who is unashamed to remove her clothes for money. I’d say she’s earned full empowerment credentials.

The Post does not. This naked woman who refuses to wear the preferred language of #MeToo is a threat. And, per Bruce, she is an obscene threat, which is more of a threat than war.

I’d say that war is a bit of a threat. Not to be a glass-half-empty foreign policy hobbyist, but today marks the largest expulsion in US history of Russian diplomats. Trump has broken Reagan’s Cold War record. Guy only ever managed to evict 55 in one go.

EU members are doing the same, following the lead of the UK, their soon-to-be ex. At the time of writing, local reports suggest that Australia will soon expel two Russian diplomats. Which might be a bother for Dutton, who may not enjoy farewelling white residents.

At what point US, Australian and all Coalition of the stupid journalists might cease cheering on the possibility of war and demanding that Trump takes more action against Russia is anybody’s guess. Maybe when the first of an estimated 4000 armed Russian nuclear missiles is activated. Maybe when anti-Russian sentiment stops trending among careless journalists on Twitter.

The loving anticipation of this war, which will be legitimised by history about as much as any other US military action of the last 60 years, will end. Perhaps in annihilation. But, maybe the Western preference for the obscenity of violence over the “obscenity” of women who refuse to wear clothes or a hashtag will never really end.

Don’t let me be one of those comedy nerds who tells you Lenny Bruce was right.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey