What I Did With My Afternoon

Got the #GOPWarOnCaterpillars hashtag to trend worldwide on Twitter.

Context: While discussing whether the GOP was carrying on a general War on Women with recent abortion access legislation in various states, Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus pooh-poohed the idea, saying:

If the Democrats said we had a war on caterpillars and every mainstream media outlet talked about the fact that Republicans have a war on caterpillars, then we’d have problems with caterpillars. It’s a fiction.

Which led to me writing this:

Which led to this:

Which led to this:

And the answer was: Apparently lots, because it got up to #3 trending worldwide. That’s wacky.

There are now hundreds of tweets out there with the hashtag, even when you filter out the spambots (who leaped on to it amazingly quickly). Here’s the tag search, if you’re interested. However, for myself, here’s my complete #GOPWarOnCaterpillars Tweet output, all in ALL CAPS for extra emphasis.

FIRST THEY CAME FOR THE CATERPILLARS AND I SAID NOTHING, BECAUSE THEY WERE EATING MY MULBERRY LEAVES

YOU SHALL HAVE MY CHRYSALIS WHEN YOU PRY MY COLD DEAD FINGERS FROM IT.

BUTTERFLIES AND RAINBOWS: NOT A COINCIDENTAL PAIRING

CATERPILLARS THREATEN AMERICAN FARMERS

CATERPILLARS GET ONLY 78 CENTS FOR EVERY DOLLAR A MOSQUITO LARVA MAKES

ULTRASOUND THE COCOON

ONLY A PARENT BUTTERFLY IS ALLOWED TO DRIVE A CATERPILLAR ACROSS STATE LINES

CATERPILLARS AREN’T REAL CATS. OR PILLARS. WHY TRUST THEIR LIES

CATERPILLARS WILL FORCE YOUR CHILDREN TO READ ABOUT THEIR LIFE CYCLE IN SCHOOL

IF CATERPILLARS ARE SO COMFORTABLE WITH THEMSELVES WHY DO THEY KEEP TRYING TO CHANGE

CATERPILLARS ARE LEPIDOPTERRIBLE

THAT CATERPILLAR SHOULDN’T HAVE WORN THAT CHRYSALIS

BREAKING: SHERIFF JOE ARPAIO ROUNDING UP MONARCH BUTTERFLY CATERPILLARS; CALLS THEM “ANCHOR BABIES”

ALL CATERPILLARS DO IS EAT. WHY CAN’T THEY JUST GET JOBS.

YOU GET SILK BY BOILING CATERPILLARS. THAT’S A HINT

NO ONE CRIED WHEN WE DECLARED WAR ON MAGGOTS

HOW ARE THOSE CATERPILLARS WORKING OUT FOR YOU NOW?

WE ONLY CARE ABOUT THEM WHEN THEY ARE EGGS. WHEN THEY’RE CATERPILLARS, THEY ARE ON THEIR OWN

MAKE NO MISTAKE, TIMMY. CATERPILLARS WILL KILL YOU AND EVERYONE YOU KNOW: http://bit.ly/HyycFO

I HAVE DONE WHAT I HAVE BEEN ASKED TO DO WITH #GOPWarOnCaterpillars. IT IS UP TO YOU NOW, CITIZENS.

And there you have it.

All of this would be delightfully amusing, except for the fact that, you know, lots of GOP legislators are doing their damnedest to restrict women’s access to abortion. And that’s not especially funny.

Also, as a coda: The Atlantic on the GOP’s actual war on caterpillars. Mr. Priebus may yet regret the comparison.

64 thoughts on “What I Did With My Afternoon

  1. What I like to tell those who want to restrict abortions is:
    A government big enough to tell you you cannot have an abortion is a government big enough to tell you you must.

    Feel free to quote me and President Ford, with proper attribution, of course.

    (Tell THAT to Sarah Palin, with her Downs Syndrome son whom I am sure she loves.)

  2. Thank you for the madness! You last comment down-plays the situation a bit, when you say “lots of GOP legislators are doing their damnedest to restrict women’s access to abortion” (though that is bad enough). They’re reducing access to contraception, working to let your doctor lie to you about the results of prenatal testing, and have effectively reduced access to general healthcare by shutting down women’s clinics wherever they can.

  3. GOP’s war on women makes just as much sense as the DNC’s war on babies. One side wants to kill babies before they’re born, the other side wants to preserve life. I like life.

  4. Right now, today, the government does not require us to have oil change insurance in our auto insurance packages. Is that ‘restricting access to oil changes’?

  5. This is simultaneously hillarious and frightening in terms of how easily social media can be manipulated.

  6. Scalzi: “#3 trending worldwide”

    buh….

    er…

    WHAT!?!?!?!!

    Farting ducks! That’s crazy!

    Catepillar Overdrive is the name of my next band.

  7. I’m with Nick Harkaway when he said about our host “…add a little grade A uncut Bolivian Scalzi, and you’ve got yourself some crazy. Oh, yes. There are frogs, from the Amazon, which come thousands of miles to lick this man in an effort to see visions. ” You make me laugh John. Thanks. :)

  8. rickg17:

    Grade A uncut Bolivian Scalzi would make a rather good name for a filk band, I think.

  9. Geoff: Car insurance does not cover preventative maintenance. Are you saying health insurance should be treated the same way? In that case, not only would birth control not be covered, neither would mammograms, annual checkups, blood pressure medication, etc.

  10. Geoff Whisler:

    I am embarrassed for you that you appear to believe you’ve posed a worthwhile question.

    I anticipate being additionally embarrassed for you when you respond.

  11. Its not just abortion that want to restrict – its also birth control. The same tablets my wife takes to prevent ovarian cysts. They want to make them impossible to get. They are also doing their darndest to limit access to all female healthcare as they undermine organizations like planned parenthood who provide a wide variety of services in addition to family planning to poor people across the country.

  12. I come home from the dojo and my husband (who’s a Twitter follower of yours) says “You’ve missed John Scalzi outing the GOP war on caterpillars!” Dang, no phylum is safe.

  13. Republicans are mean, hate women and drive caterpillars. How awful is that? Poor little caterpillars forced to have full sized human Republicans on their backs and to be ridden all day and put away wet.

    A Democrat would never put away a caterpillar wet.

  14. Okeydoke, let’s see how much I can embarrass myself.

    The issue under discussion is the Prez’s diktat that Religious Institutions must insure their employees for Birth Control. Imagine a Venn Diagram. There is a subset of Americans that can’t afford Health Care. There is a subset of Americans that is employed by Religious Institutions. “Employed” being the key word there. Since this second subset is employed, is it realistic that they can’t afford the roughly 10 bucks a month that a monthly pill prescription costs down at your local big box pharm? Is there an intersection of people in the two subsets? Will forcing Religious Institutions to insure against birth control really help the women who aren’t employed at all?

    Is there really a push to deny women access to health care going on here? Or is the Administration hoping you will distract yourself from their truly execrable performance the last 3 years by getting all spun up over this non-issue? I’ll grant you that the GOP is FUBAR but do you really think they want to legislate Birth Control out of existence in the US? Is that a winning strategy?

  15. Please don’t ignore the fact the the GOP is running (at least) a two-front war. One front is on women. The other front is on science; hence the outbreak of “academic freedom” bills, with one already in place in Louisiana, another probably about to be in Tennessee, and others cooking in Oklahoma, Alabama, and Missouri. “Academic freedom” has become the buzzword for killing science teaching of evolution, climate change, and gene therapy, among others.

  16. Geoff Whisler:

    “The issue under discussion is the Prez’s diktat that Religious Institutions must insure their employees for Birth Control.”

    Actually, the issue under discussion is the GOP-controlled state legislatures doing any number of patently obnoxious things to reduce women’s access to abortion, as noted in the actual entry. So not only are you embarrassing yourself, you’re also derailing the conversation.

    Please feel free not to embarrass yourself further.

  17. I’d also point out the Geoff that my wife take birth control pills to control ovarian cysts. The Prez would also require insurance companies to cover those pills too. The same as they covered radiation treatments because it is health care. If you want to allow one groups religious conviction to dictate what is permissible healthcare you better hope we never get a Christian Scientist in charge.

  18. CATERPILLARS ARE LEPIDOPTERRIBLE

    *sporfle* I needed that laugh today! Thanks for that, John, and for having women’s backs on this.

  19. Some things just begged to be mocked.

    Compare women to larvae when you’re trying to gloss over asinine legislation directed against them? Smooth, *real* smooth.

    (No, it wasn’t a direct comparison. But the choice of analogy just reeks of dismissiveness.)

  20. He definitely could have picked a better comparison. Or alternately, could have not picked a comparison at all and made his point another, less mockable way.

    Fortunately for my afternoon amusement, however, he did not.

  21. Caterpillars wrap themselves up in their own cocoons and wait for change to come to them…just like the young electorate after the 2008 election.

    Ouch. That one might be too close to home.

  22. So wait, if I wear a Caterpillar gimme cap, what side am I saying I am on?

    Also, there is a Gypsy Moth joke in here somewhere, but I can’t find it in this big tent.

  23. A few weeks ago I tried starting a: They can have my contraception when they pry it from my cold dead…. meme, but somehow that did not take off.

  24. Thank you for a brilliant and absolutely hilarious post Mr Scalzi! I just read most of it to my wife.
    I found this one online, which I also liked: “There is no such thing as a caterpillar. It’s a butterfly from the moment of conception.” – Proteus
    It also seems to me that the Republicans who compare women to insects and other animals are probably revealing a lot about how they view the world.

    Geoff Whistler: I hope you feel suitably embarrassed by your ignorance on this subject.
    Firstly, different types can cost more like $100/mo, and not all women can take the cheaper kind.
    Anyway, for a family on the poverty line unable to properly feed and clothe their kids, any charge could be too much.
    Yup, many leading Republicans really do want to ban all contraception because it is “a license to do things in a sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be.” Various GOP-sponsored laws already allow pharmacists to refuse to sell medical treatments that go against their “conscience”.
    If the president did make an exception in healthcare laws to allow, say, Catholics to force their religion onto others, then that would be a clear violation of the first amendment, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion”…

  25. Thank you Mr. Scalzi for at least allowing me to get some laughs out of a trend that has gotten so out of hand that it infuriates me daily.

    To Mr. Whistler: you demonstrate a complete lack of understanding of the marginalization of women, of the value of preventative medicine, and of economic matters both simple and complex. On the last, I will merely point out that $10 for a pack of pills may be way you pay *with* insurance. It is certainly not what meds cost when you don’t have it. Birth control pills are not only about preventing pregnancy (although preventing pregnancy is a worthy public health goal, since medical care for pregnant women and, later, their children, are extremely high, especially in comparison to the costs of a daily medication). BC pills are also used to regulate hormones, to prevent ovarian cysts, to control what can be debilitating back pain and cramps, among other reasons. Finally, this is not only about a disagreement over whether religious institutions have to provide contraceptives to their female employees. It is about a slew of legislation over the last year/two years which demonstrates GOP willingness to undermine the independence and security of women. Just a few examples in the remote hope that you will go educate yourself before engaging in further deluded debate:

    Texas turned down $35 million in federal funds for the Medicaid Women’s Health Program. This means that at least 300,000 low-income and uninsured women in Texas will have no access, or significantly reduced access, to basic reproductive health care. http://www.rhrealitycheck.org/article/2012/03/13/goodbye-texas-womens-health-program

    A proposed bill in Arizona requires women to prove to their employers that they need birth control in order to treat a medical condition if they want their prescription to be covered by their insurer. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/stephanie-schriock/arizona-birth-control_b_1346146.html

    Pennsylvania and Texas require all women seeking a legal abortion undergo a medically unnecessary vaginal ultrasound probe, including rape victims. PA’s governor suggests that women “close their eyes” during the procedure to make it better. http://gawker.com/5893927/pa-governors-advice-for-women-under-mandatory-ultrasound-bill-just-close-your-eyes

    Oklahoma passed a personhood amendment declaring a fertilized egg to be a person, which could make birth control illegal and partial miscarriages unable to treat until the woman’s life is in danger. http://www.tulsaworld.com/news/article.aspx?subjectid=336&articleid=20120215_336_0_OKLAHO429356

    Topeka, Kansas overturned their domestic violence law in 2011, hoping to balance their budget. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/12/us/topeka-moves-to-decriminalize-domestic-violence.html?_r=2

    Today, women pay up to 50% more than men for the same health coverage. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/19/health/policy/women-still-pay-more-for-health-insurance-data-shows.html

    A Wisconsin lawmaker has proposed a law which would ban all divorces, including those due to domestic violence, and recommended that women who are abused by their husbands try to “remember what you loved about him when you first got married” in order to “make things better.” http://shine.yahoo.com/love-sex/wisconsin-lawmaker-says-women-stay-abusive-marriages-232700220.html

    Republicans are fighting the renewal of the Violence Against Women Act, which provides for greater infrastructure for the prevention of violence against women: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/15/us/politics/violence-against-women-act-divides-senate.html?_r=3&pagewanted=all

    Mississippi has passed a new law restricting who can perform abortions, with the admitted intention of forcing the state’s only abortion clinic to shut down: http://www.cnn.com/2012/04/04/politics/mississippi-abortion/index.html?eref=mrss_igoogle_politics

    I apologize to Mr. Scalzi as I am new here, and I don’t know if a post this long is acceptable, but as a woman I am deeply troubled and angered by the current direction of legislation regarding women’s rights and women’s issues. And frankly, any man who has a mother, a wife, a sister, or a daughter that he cares about should be too.

  26. I’ve read an interesting editoral that said it’s not really war on women, it’s a war on the have-nots by the haves. The theory being, both men and women of the “haves” use restrictions on abortion, birth control, slut-shaming, to hold down the have-not women. This both raises the status of the “have” women, who can both afford these things and break the rules they themselves set, and afford to keep them secret, and ensures the have-nots stay poor. It was an interesting theory, that accounts for why so many women partake in the same war on women here (as well as in other societies).

  27. ZOMG I loved this. Even my 15 year old daughter, who is accompanying me to Chicago on April 28th for the War Against Women protest, appreciated this.

  28. Dani: to be fair, the Topeka, Kansas domestic violence thing is a bit exaggerated. There is no reason for a city to have domestic violence laws as the state laws are already and still in place. The problem was that the city had to pay for the prosecution when it was charged under the city ordinance instead of going to state level court system. So domestic violence was legalized, the jurisdiction was just cleared up.

    That being said, I’m not disagreeing with the overall point.

  29. Kilroy: I see what you’re saying, but the larger point of what happened in Topeka is *not* that it is now legal to abuse your wife (it’s not, for the reasons you state), but rather that when it came down to deciding how to deal with a financial problem, this was even on the table. If we were talking about prosecutions for armed robbery or drug dealing, no lawmaker at any level (city, county, state, federal) would decide that these areas weren’t important enough to find the finding to continue to prosecute. The implication of the Topeka city council’s decision is that punishing those who abuse women in their own homes just wasn’t important enough, when balanced with the other obligations they have. (Although I will point out that regardless of whether it is now “legal,” it is in fact the case that since this happened, many domestic abusers have gone un-prosecuted as a result).

    This is the same reason the pressure against the Violence Against Women Act, and the willingness to cut funding to programs which disproportionately affect women (especially single mothers and their children) is disturbing in a manner which far exceeds general liberal disgust with unsympathetic conservatives (although I have plenty of the latter, as well).

  30. Not only that, you inadvertently got me mentioned in our local free news/art/etc. paper’s blog:

    http://slog.thestranger.com/slog/archives/2012/04/05/inside-the-republican-war-on-caterpillars

    My husband is jealous. ;)

    (Also comment #2 on that link is worth a read; it gathers a whole lot of examples of the war on women into one place, with links. It’s even more frightening to see it all together, but it’s an astoundingly clear picture of what’s going on. I didn’t watch the video, though.)

  31. The problem with Mr. Priebus’s observation is that, in essence, the GOP is kicking puppies, and the Democrats are pointing out that the GOP is kicking puppies, with the hyperbole of a War On Puppies.

    He’s claiming that the War On Women isn’t real, when the only thing that might be made up is the events being a concerted effort. (It’s possible that this might just be a case of simultaneous stupidity. I’m not sure whether this is closer in likelihood to “rolling a 7 in a game of Craps” or “spontaneously teleporting to Hawaii.”)

  32. It seems to me that someone whose popular culture social media Svengali powers are sufficient to get a hashtag trending worldwide should be able to get his followers to 30,000 so we can all enjoy a buttercream moment.

  33. Dani: I think the point was actually the exact opposite. The Topeka counsel wanted to bring attention to their financial problems. While removing ordinances on speeding (neither armed robbery or drug dealing were ordinances as they are both felonies) would not gain the attention of their predicament, removing the ordianance on domestic violence was sure to gain extensive press coverage. So they choose D.V. particularly because it was important enough.

  34. All y’all are getting the Topeka story wrong. The truth is just as stupid, but in a way the Topeka City Council should be applauded for its creativity.

    The Topeka City Council decriminalize misdemeanor domestic violence to ensure that those who commit the crime are punished. (Laugh and then read the explanation).

    Last September, the Shawnee County (where Topeka is located) district attorney announced that, due to budget cuts, his office would no longer prosecute ANY misdemeanor crimes, including misdemeanor domestic violence. As a result, prosecution of misdemeanor domestic violence fell to the Topeka city attorney’s office, which said it did not have the resources to prosecute.

    As a result, in the month following the decision, 18 people in Topeka who had been taken into custody for misdemeanor domestic violence were released with no charges filed.

    By decriminalizing misdemeanor domestic violence, the city council forced the district attorney to go back to prosecuting the misdemeanor cases because there was no longer a lower court option to pass the buck to.

  35. @Erick: I shuddered, and then I read the explanation. I’m willing to accept the explanation, but that it happened still gives me the willies. Or maybe better put: that it HAD to happen. I hope, at least, that it has resulted in a moratorium on domestic abusers going free without prosecution.

  36. the topeka city council members should be ashamed of themselves. not enough budget to prosecute crimes? really?

  37. Holy shit, dude, that was you? I think that means you own the internet. Seriously, I am impressed.

  38. Apparently it’s quite dangerous to allow brilliant creative minds to be idle for any period of time, John Scalzi.

  39. Don’t trend on me.

    There, had to be done. Carry on.

    Oh, and the recent trend of social conservatives using that maxim originally leveled against government overreach is dumbfounding hypocrisy. Statists working to exert dictatorial control over citizens’ bodies.under a libertarian banner! Women and men defending the sovereignty of people’s bodies have the rightful claim to the warning Don’t tread on me. And a warning is exactly what it is…

    Don’t tread on me and don’t tread on U.S.

  40. Ooooh secret project! It’s a novella about the caterpillers rising up against their oppressors, ,right?

  41. “Reince”?
    – really, Reince?
    What kind of a person names their child Reince?
    What kind of a person named Reince does not change their legal name on reaching adulthood?
    What kind of people would follow the leadership of someone named Reince?
    These are the important questions, seems to me…

  42. A couple points…

    @old aggie: The name Reince reflects his family heritage (I believe it’s German). Disclosure: I’ve known Reince Priebus since he was a kid in high school. I’ve not been in touch with him for a number of years but he has my respect.

    There’s a widespread misinterpretation of what Mr. Priebus said… he was trying to make a point that just because the media declares that someone, anyone, has a “war” on something doesn’t make it an actual fact. A number of Republicans hold positions that others believe constitute a “war on women” but to say that the Republican party as a whole has a “war” on anyone is patently false.

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