Posts Tagged ‘racism’

Nope, No Racism

Saturday, June 6th, 2009

by Brien Jackson

This really says it all doesn’t it?

Now obviously I’m not the first person to write about this, so I’m hardly the first to notice that National Review made the odd decision to caricature Sotomayor’s “wise Latina” remark with a caricature of Asian stereotypes, but in a way, I think that’s sort of the least interesting, or telling anyway, aspect of the story so far. Yeah, it’s kind of funny that no one at the editorial meeting apparently knows their stereotypes, but then, this post from Rich Lowry does sort of tell us that they knew what they were doing, so the most obvious conclusion to draw from that is that National Review is simply looking to bait attention from this, and they’re perfectly happy to use racist imagery to do that Hell, it seems that may even be the point. Seeing conservatives toe the racist line isn’t anything new, nor is it new to see them whine about being called on it when they do step over said line, but this is pretty brazen even by those standards. Lowry goes on to call critics “humorless” because, you know, all those liberals just don’t get teh funneh inherent in making fun of racial minorities based on other group stereotypes. They’re worse than feminists and rape jokes! And then along comes Jonah, because there’s never been anyone worse at making connections in human history, to tell us that “real” racially offensive imagery is a black magazine using well known references to selling out people like you to get ahead. I mean, it’s just like how they all walk around calling each other “nigger” but get pissed off when Jonah calls them a nigger. Why won’t they just get with the program of the well known human tradition that if one person can say it to another? What’s that you say? Context? Personal relationships? Shared experiences? What the hell is that?

Ultimately the game here is pretty simple; you do something that you know will get people to call you a racist, because it is racist, and you use that to stoke the resentiment of the aspects of your white-male coalition that haven’t quite come to grips with this racial/gender equality stuff yet, or are convinced that white males are the new oppressed minority, or whatever the hell the talking point is today. You tell them this is proof that white guys can’t even tell a joke anymore (even though this obviously isn’t a joke), that you can’t criticize a minority without being called a racist (even though you’re not being called out for criticism, but for using racial caricatures), and of course the ever present “I know you are but what am I” retorts Jonah traffics in. Because ultimately, the only thing that matters is pissing off liberals. But I don’t think it pisses anyone off anymore, it’s just embarrassing to watch. Like a 6 year old throwing a tantrum in a grocery store; you feel terrible for staring, but damnitt, you just can’t help yourself.

You Are What You Say

Monday, June 1st, 2009

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.

Just Say No To Populism Cont’d

Wednesday, February 18th, 2009

by Brien Jackson

Backing up the idea that left-wing populism can only reinforce right-wing populism, and put progressives who embrace it into an unteneable position, check out this amazing post from Sirota on J.D. Hayworth’s anti-semitism:

First, let me say up front, I agree with the principle voiced by the Prospect. From Henry Ford to Father Coughlin to Pat Buchanan, there are ample examples of right-wing populism either melding with or becoming straight-up anti-semitism (and, more generally xenophobia). And I think that Hayworth’s veneration of Ford’s anti-semitism is, well, pretty clearly anti-semitic unto itself.

However, Hayworth’s specific comments aside, charges of anti-semitism are serious – and you need more to prove that is what’s going on than references to “elites” or even to George Soros.* And I say this as a Jew who gets lots of hate mail. Most of that hate mail comes from the sender’s hatred of my progressive ideology, and some of it is explicitly anti-semitic. I’d be absurd, though, to say that all of my hate mail is anti-semitic just because it is addressed to me, a Jewish person.

The fact is, the Wall Street elite destroyed our economy. Believing that fact and voicing it through the rhetoric of populism doesn’t make somebody “anti-semitic” just because there happen to be Jews working on Wall Street, or even if the person voicing outrage happens to mention the names of wrongdoers who happen to be Jewish (like, say, Bernie Madoff). Likewise, a group of very powerful conservative ideologues in the Pentagon and in the neo-conservative think tank world pushed the country to war. That’s a fact – and believing it or voicing anger about it doesn’t make somebody anti-semitic, just because some of those ideologues happen to be Jewish, or even if the person voicing anger mentions the names of some people who happen to be Jewish.

Of course he’s right, but that’s what makes this such an absurd post. No one is going to dispute the idea that criticizing bankers or Iraq war proponents makes you anti-semitic because some of them happen to be Jewish, so the fact that Sirota has to devolve to this canard really let’s the cat out of the bag early. Moreover, that’s not really what Hayworth did, he actually denigrated Soros as a “currency manipulator,” and Sirota even ackowledges that he finds this to be anti-semitic.

Rather, what’s happening here is what will always happen when progressives embrace populism; you set the ball rolling, and the right-wing will jump in to ratchet up the rage and play off the resentiment. What Sirota’s obviously doing is defending himself, since he’s been so critical of Wall Street in overt populist language. And obviously Sirota is not an anti-semite, and there’s nothing anti-Semitic in anything I’ve ever seen him write. But that’s not the point; the point is that it’s Sirota’s brand of left-wing populism that lays the groundwork for racist, anti-semitic, know nothing right-wing populists to enter the “grassroots” discussion, and once that happens the left simply can’t win a race to the bottom. And they get left mounting quasi defenses of racists in order to defend their populism to boot.

The Marty Problem

Tuesday, December 30th, 2008

There are a lot of very talented writers who work for The New Republic. There are many whose work I admire, and because of that both The Plank and The Stump are well worth reading. But whether we’re talkingabout Chait, Cohn, Judis, Fairbanks, Cottle, Scheiber, or any other very talented writer under the TNR banner, on some level they should always have it hanging over their heads that they worked under, and thereby enabled, Marty Peretz. Here’s Marty’s latest meandering into the Gaza conflict:

I pity them their hatred of their inheritance. Actually of both their inheritances, Jewish and American. They are pip-squeaks, and I do not much read them. But when any one of them writes a real doozey it is likely to come to my attention.

I have known one of them, Spencer Ackerman, a smart young man but, alas, not as smart as he thinks and certainly not as smart as he needs to be. He worked at The New Republic for maybe two years or even three for which I apologize; you can look up his trash by yourself.

They were brought to mind in a short piece by Noah Pollak who, although he writes for Commentary’s “Contentions” blog, is about as free of conservative cant as are Niall Ferguson, who writes occasionally (too occasionally) for us, and Christopher Caldwell, a Saturday regular at the FT.   

“Juicebox mafia,” the tag-line for the Matthew Yglesias, Ezra Klein and Ackerman trio, was provided by a regular contributor to TNR. An excerpt from Pollak:

Matthew Yglesias writes something dumb enough that it needs no elaboration:

But already the number of Israelis killed by Hamas rockets has increased (from a baseline of zero) since the retaliatory attack that was supposed to prevent such killings.

Pollak is correct about Yglesias’ flippant allusion to the killing of two Israelis by rocketry in the heat of ongoing battle, although other Israelis were sent to their deaths during the six-month “cease-fire.” Some cease-fire. The point is that civil society is impossible with 50 missiles a day raining on your head. And it is a civil society that is at stake here. Whether the Gaza Palestinians can ever have a truly civil society is another question, the answer to which — given the Arab societies that surround them — is probably “no.” Sorry to disappoint you.

There’s a lot to unpack here, and it’s probably not worth the effort, but just this once I can’t resist. For starters, Peretz basically trots out the “self-loathing Jew” line without making it explicit, which is about as low as it gets. What anyone’s ethnic “inheritance” has to do with anything I don’t really know, other than that Marty seems to think every Jew everywhere must agree with him and reflexively cheer on everything Israel decides to do, even if it’s not in Israel’s interest. It’s the same as the reflexive right-wing “love it or leave it” meme, and it makes equally little sense when given an iota of thought.

Secondly, there’s the cheap, gratuitous, slam at Spackerman. Putting aside the cheap, weak, and rather contradictory potshots, there’s something just downright low about the editor of your former magazine “apologizing” for your writing. That’s especially true at TNR, where there’s a lot of writers who should be routinely apologized for, Marty being chief among them. To put it as bluntly as I can, and to state the obvious, Mart Peretz is a racist, as evidenced by his belief that, ” The point is that civil society is impossible with 50 missiles a day raining on your head. And it is a civil society that is at stake here. Whether the Gaza Palestinians can ever have a truly civil society is another question, the answer to which — given the Arab societies that surround them — is probably “no.” In other words, Arabs are sub-human animals who aren’t cabable of civilized living. This is, of course, the same sort of logic that’s been used to justify holding Africans in slavery, criminalizing homosexuality, various ethnic wars around the world, and ironically enough, the centuries of oppression of the Jewish people. Which isn’t surprising, in so much as bigotry is bigotry no matter whom it’s directed against, and it’s at least helpful when people are upfront about their bigotry, but bigotry it is all the same.

So while Marty is in an apologizing mood, every writer under the TNR banner should be apologizing for him. Of course that won’t happen, since Marty writes the checks, but anyone who carries on silently while their boss spews blatant racism on the same webspace they inhabit should not complain if that comes back to haunt them in the future.

Race and Republicans

Monday, December 29th, 2008

If Chip Saltsman distributing a racism filled CD as part of his campaign to head the RNC wasn’t bad enough, Ken Blackwell, the African-American former Secretary of State of Ohio, weighing in to defend him really puts the story over the top:

“Unfortunately, there is hypersensitivity in the press regarding matters of race. This is in large measure due to President-Elect Obama being the first African-American elected president,” said Blackwell, who would be the first black RNC chairman, in a statement forwarded to Politico by an aide. “I don’t think any of the concerns that have been expressed in the media about any of the other candidates for RNC chairman should disqualify them. When looked at in the proper context, these concerns are minimal. All of my competitors for this leadership post are fine people.”

Now obviously, you’ve got to start looking at this in the context of a political campaign, and with the fact that Blackwell is black in mind. And in that the thought process is pretty clear; Blackwell thinks he can score points with RNC voters by dismissing the racist actions of another candidate as media creation that, “in context” really doesn’t mean anything. This is ridiculous of course, but it’s incredibly illuminating in what it says about the GOP, or at least how some of its members see it. It will say even more if Blackwell wins now.