"Whenever I go into a restaurant, I order both a chicken and an egg to see which comes first"

Tuesday, June 11, 2024

'How Many Knights Of King Arthur's Roundtable Were Gay?' - The New York Times Goes For Broke

The journalists of the New York Times simply can't help themselves, pounding out one story after another about overcoming adversity - or, read another way, how people have overcome America's racist bigotry, misogyny, and ethnic hatred.  The stories are not so much about individuals, but the awful consequences of living in America. 

Take Operetta Jones for example, the granddaughter of a Mississippi sharecropper who had struggled with her sexuality ever since she was caught in the barn with her cousin, Miss Lively, her dress up and cornstalks in her hair.  Her pappy, Old Isaiah, gave her the beating of her life, sent Miss Lively back to Tupelo, and kept a watch on his baby's daughter from the front porch.

Of course Operetta, a feisty, determined girl who knew her own mind and followed no one else's, found ways around the front porch.  There was Beauty, Grace, and Esther - a surprising sexual 'genius cluster' in this small Delta town which was a model of white propriety and black church-going, God-fearing rectitude. Although there were talks of infidelity - rumor had it that Marshall Evans and Mable Filbert, both married with children, had sex in the tobacco shed - it was right and proper infidelity.  Anything other than normal heterosexual sex was unheard of in Blythe, Mississippi. 

Yet, under a giant flowering magnolia tree Isabel Perkins and Betty Lou Unger coupled and rutted every Thursday evening like clockwork, having walked the Greenville Road for two miles to their out-of-the way trysting place down a red dirt road leading through the cotton fields to where this magnificent tree stood. 


The stories of Isabel and Operetta alone would have been good enough for the Times - lesbian love in both black and white Southern communities - but when the reporter learned that Operetta and Isabel had become lovers and told her editor about the find, the paper rushed to print. 

Now, in Blythe, Mississippi, like in most places in the small town South, there was a pleasant congeniality between black and white.  Not exactly integration, but a nice accommodation that added to the easy, untroubled life of the town; and it was within this peculiar and quite particular social environment that the two girls found each other and began their scandalous affair.  The idea of sexual doings between black and white was bad enough, but between two young women?? Unthinkable; and of course the makings of a feature article for the Times. 

The reporter's own sexuality was never deciphered, and because of that mystery, it was assumed to be something on a sliding scale and thus very much a part of the paper's sexually diverse ethos.  She was also of indeterminate race - certainly not really white and certainly not black, but some mysterious mixture of both; and the fact that she did not give anything away added to her allure. She would be the perfect person to follow up on the story. 

The story checked every box of the woke New York Times. Once the white girls' affair had been found out, all the sub rasa racial  of the prejudice of the South, its meanness and unreconstructed racial hatred, came to the surface.  Mississippi was what the Times editorial board had always suspected - it had not changed since the days of Jim Crow. 

The presumptions about small town Southern disgust of same sex relationships were confirmed, but even the reporter was startled at how when race was thrown into a heady sexual mix, the hatred was exponential.  The tender love that the girls had for each other was overlooked in twisted, typically American maliciousness.  

However most of the story as reported by the Times was fiction.  Most of the white residents of the town, anxious to get Donald Trump elected, cared less about who did what to whom, and Hiram Filbert, the white girl's father was a shabby man to start off with.  As far as the black girl was concerned, 'who knows what lurks in the dark breasts of the South?' was the popular meme of the region, so both white folk and black just paid no attention to the rutting in the barn. 

Although the reporter found a surprising indifference to the whole affair, no one down here read the Times anyway.  Not exactly preaching to the choir, her editor said, but more a reinforcement of progressive thought. So the reporter gussied up the story and by the time she had finished, it was a reader's delight - all the miasmic hatred of the unreconstructed, slave mentality of the South was there in spades.


All of which is a preamble to the real story - 'How Many Knights of King Arthur's Round Table Were Gay?' - a feature that the Times was about to publish based on medieval scholarship and a comprehensive review of the historicity and/or mythology of the legend.  The Times had been convinced by noted scholar Trent Livingstone of Harvard that Arthur did indeed exist, that his knights were not creative inventions by a credulous English peasantry, and that many of them were gay. 

Based on Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, an early 1400s epic poem in the Arthurian tradition and the sonnets of Petrarch, and manuscripts found in the crypt of St. Robert the Martyr at Kings College, Cambridge, the New York Times recruited a gay medievalist to research the topic and to write the first draft of a multi-page article which would be edited and completed by professional journalists. 

The gay medievalist, as expected, confirmed that Sir Galahad and Sir Gareth and Sir Ector and Sir Kay were lovers.  Whether or not all four exchanged lovers is uncertain but probable. The camaraderie of the Roundtable was well-known.  The knights were not only known for gallantry and bravery but fellowship.  It was only a short leap to assumptions about their sexual relations. 

The New York Times had outdone itself this time.  Not only was it probable that King Arthur and his knights never existed, but that these imaginary creations were gay added fiction to fantasy - a double scoop cone of invention.  The credulous gay academic and the equally subjectively hopeful editorial staff, delighted to find evidence of gayness in high places, plowed ahead despite the warning signs.  

One female journalist on the Time's staff - one of the few straight women at the newspaper, called the story into question.  'It sounds like malarkey to me', she said.  'Where's the beef?', but she was roundly silenced.  What would a woman know of these affairs, journalist or not? and the rush to publication went forward. 

The story was leaked - not the story about Sirs Galahad and Gareth itself, but about the Times' impatience to publish it - and when it first hit the Media section of Orange County Register, a local paper more used to covering yacht racing and the Padres and written by a young intern who had been a Classics and Medieval scholar at Yale, and later picked up by the Federalist, the affair went viral. 'Gay Jousting - The Outing of King Arthur by the New York Times'; 'Gay Footsies Under The Roundtable'; 'Gay Goings On When The Armor Came Off ', and much more. 

Needless to say, the publisher of the Times pulled the story before it got published.  It was bad enough that his paper was hemorrhaging readership and advertising revenue because of its woke editorial policy, becoming the laughing stock of the media confraternity would be too much to swallow. 

The editor in charge of the story was dismissed, the entire newsroom went on strike because of the paper's systemic homophobia, but a warning shot had been fired over the bow, and for a while the paper at least tried to stick to the facts. 

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