Vulgarity as Ethos [...]

A writer argues that vulgarity is necessary to “revolution”. But perhaps the problem is that the French Revolution is a lousy model for social change?

Vulgarity has always been employed in revolutionary rhetoric, perhaps most notably in the propaganda leading up to Jacobin’s own beloved French Revolution. Forget snark, the pamphleteers of France were all too happy to satirize and smear the upper class with the utmost malice. Clergy, royals, and anyone else in power were slandered and depicted visually in all manner of crass and farcical political cartoons.

Of all the public figures subjected to such vicious derision and gossip (often highly inaccurate gossip at that), Marie Antoinette was singled out for especially inventive and vicious taunting. True to French tradition, the slanderous pamphlets, called libelles, were fond of wordplay. For the Austrian-born Antoinette, they coined Austrichienne, meaning “Austrian bitch,” but also resembling the French word for “ostrich.” Thus, layering a visual pun upon a verbal one, one artist actually portrayed Antoinette stroking a massive, ostrich-like penis, complete with legs and a saddle. Mounted upon the penile steed was progressive royalist Marquis de Lafayette, who sympathized with the peasants but was eventually denounced as a traitor by Robespierre (revolutionaries tend not to be terribly fond of diplomatic fence-straddlers). In another of the ostrich-themed cartoons (it was evidently a series), Marie actually bared her own genitals to the phallic beast and its rider. It’s a stunningly vulgar image, and without a doubt, quite nasty and mean. One couldn’t imagine a Beltway professional depicting the ruling class so crudely today; even the most offensive of right-wing political cartoonists haven’t yet dared to explore the satirical possibilities for giant ostrich-dicks. (Source)

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