You Are What You Say

by Brien Jackson

There’s a lot to agree with in this post from Larison, but I want to take issue with this:

As for the other point, it is true that refraining from making baseless charges of racism against Sotomayor will not stop other baseless attacks against conservatives from being made. However, it does seem all but certain that making such baseless charges one of the main lines of attack against Sotomayor will make it far more likely that even those conservative arguments that were once given the benefit of the doubt will be willfully misread in just the same way that critics seem to have been misreading Sotomayor’s statements.

“Willful misreading” is one way to put it, I suppose, but it seems to me that a much more logical way to look at it is that once you develop a track record of playing to racist sentiments or employing racial tropes, you lose the right to be given the benefit of the doubt in the future, because you have a track record. If John Bolton or some other neoconservative hawk writes a column employing hardline rhetoric against, say, North Korea, but without explicitly calling for military action, it’s probably still pretty fair to assume they would be in favor of such a course, because they’ve got a track record of supporting military action against states who take courses they don’t approve of. All of which basically says two things; first, as Yglesias is fond of pointing out, conservatives are much more concerned about accusations of racism than they are with actual instances of racism and, secondly, if you don’t want people to think that you’re a racist, or that you’re comfortable making appeals to racialist sentiment, then maybe you shouldn’t traffic in the sort of rhetoric that calls a summa cum laude graduate of Princeton the recipient of “preferential treatment” based on their race and gender or disparage a Supreme Court nominee with more prior judicial experience than anyone currently sitting on the court an “affirmative action hire.”

Just a suggestion.

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