Showing posts tagged race

Bundy and Ryan and America’s cowardly media

Paul Ryan: ““Your buddy Charles Murray or Bob Putnam over at Harvard, those guys have written books on this. Which is, we have got this tailspin of culture in our inner cities in particular of men not working, and just generations of men not even thinking about working and learning the value and culture of work. “So, there’s a real culture problem here that has to be dealt with.”

Cliven Bundy: I want to tell you one more thing I know about the Negro,”  He recalled driving past a public-housing project in North Las Vegas, “and in front of that government house the door was usually open and the older people and the kids — and there is always at least a half a dozen people sitting on the porch — they didn’t have nothing to do. They didn’t have nothing for their kids to do. They didn’t have nothing for their young girls to do. And because they were basically on government subsidy, so now what do they do? They abort their young children, they put their young men in jail, because they never learned how to pick cotton. And I’ve often wondered, are they better off as slaves, picking cotton and having a family life and doing things, or are they better off under government subsidy?


Appearing on “Larry King Live” in 1995, Jesse Helms, then the senior senator from North Carolina, fielded a call from an unusual admirer. Helms deserved the Nobel Peace Prize, the caller gushed, “for everything you’ve done to help keep down the niggers.” Given the rank ugliness of the sentiment — the guest host, Robert Novak, called it, with considerable understatement, “politically incorrect” — Helms could only pause before responding. But the hesitation couldn’t suppress his gut instincts. “Whoops, well, thank you, I think,” he said. With prodding from Novak, he added that he’d been spanked as a child for using the N-word and noted (with a delicious hint of uncertainty), “I don’t think I’ve used it since.” As for the caller’s main point — the virtue of keeping down blacks — it passed without comment. NYTimes

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz started off his Wednesday speech on foreign policy at the conservative Heritage Foundation with a confession: His first political contribution was a $10 contribution to the late Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.), when he was 10. Then he followed it up with a plea. “We need 100 more like Jesse Helms,” he said. Mother Jones Magazine

“Impressive though the historical, sociological, and psychological evidence undergirding this analysis may be, it also happens to be completely insane. Whatever Lee Atwater said, or meant to say, advocating tax cuts is not in any meaningful sense racist.” - Jonathon  Chait.

White man speaks with forked tongue

Ted Cruz’s father is his main political advisor and is a heavy hitter in Republican circles in his own right. He is also a Dominianist Cultist who believes that members of his “Christian” sect are supposed to rule the lesser peoples (everyone else) and that his son, Ted, has been “annointed by God” to be King. The US public has no idea about these things because the media never brings it up.  Senator Cruz is free to have his father make the cult circuit, and bridge that to Republican funders and big shots, while he camps on TV acting the part of a mainstream conservative.  This is a classic example of how the media permits Republicans to dual stream - pandering to an extremist base essentially in private  while the media politely averts its eyes.  Cruz Jr. is not even required to publicly state whether he believes the US is a “Christian nation”, whether a Muslim or Jewish President would be Constitutional, or even if he considers Catholics and mainstream Protestants to be Christians. Cruz Jr. is free to pose as that promised God-given Theocrat to the crazies and then act the Constitutional Lawyer for the TV cameras.  When someone, like a reporter for the marginalized Mother Jones magazine, dares to question him about what Rafael Sr. says, his office can deny it, or call it “out of context” and the same media that gave hundreds of hours of air time to non-scandals like Benghazi or to Obama’s ties with Reverend Wright, politely claps and goes on to something else.

The same thing happened when Paul Ryan let the mask slip and, told far right wing radio host Bill Bennet:

“Your buddy Charles Murray or Bob Putnam over at Harvard, those guys have written books on this. Which is, we have got this tailspin of culture in our inner cities in particular of men not working, and just generations of men not even thinking about working and learning the value and culture of work. “So, there’s a real culture problem here that has to be dealt with.”

 He didn’t have to wink and follow with “if you know what I mean”, because the meaning was obvious.  Just in case you might not be clear on who Murray is, here’s a summary from the Southern Poverty Law Center:

Charles Murray, a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, has become one of the most influential social scientists in America, using racist pseudoscience and misleading statistics to argue that social inequality is caused by the genetic inferiority of the black and Latino communities, women and the poor. According to Murray, disadvantaged groups are disadvantaged because, on average, they cannot compete with white men, who are intellectually, psychologically and morally superior.

To many of Ryan’s listeners, the message of “we want to stop sending your tax dollars to lazy black guys” would have been crystal clear. Now maybe Ryan is referring to some other work by Murray and he rejects Murray’s race tracts. Maybe he just doesn’t know about rural poverty in the USA. Maybe, by  “inner city men” he meant rich trust fund recipients living on the upper east side of Manhattan.  Maybe he really meant to discuss the decline of bowling leagues.  I guess that’s possible, but our media allowed him to remain unclear - just a pro-forma “I was inarticulate” was good enough to close the topic.   And Jon Chait got hysterical when pushed on the idea that one could presume that the Republican party relied on the racial animosity of a significant part of its supporters in order to win elections.

None of this is new. During the 2000 Presidential campaign, George W. Bush sprinkled his speeches with garbled slogans of the extreme anti-choice movement and the press insisted on treating these as charming moments of, um, inarticulateness. Ronald Reagan was able to comence his Presidential campaign in a small Mississippi town where civil rights workers had been murdered and invoke “states rights” while the media pretended to believe he was talking about  theories of constitutional federalism. Especially on racial matters, the media affects a level of naivete and clueless that would have impressed the censors at the Soviet era Pravda. This is from the Financial Times during the 2012 election:

One of the better answers I have found comes from a well-known supporter of Mr Romney – Suzy Welch, former editor in chief of the Harvard Business Review, and wife of Jack Welch, former CEO of General Electric. In an appearance on CNN with her husband, Mrs Welch suggested that Mr Obama’s personal style and choice of musical material define him as a member of a “different America”. I would imagine this is why Mr Romney’s campaign included the snippet of Mr Obama singing “Let’s Stay Together” at the Apollo Theater in Harlem. They hoped it would convey his otherness. “It’s the difference between the songs that they’re singing,” Mrs Welch said. “Mitt Romney didn’t exactly do a beautiful job on that song, but think about what he’s singing, OK? I mean it’s that patriotic song and he goes all the way through it. Then you’ve got the very cool Barack Obama singing Al Green. That is the two different Americas. Isn’t it?”

Some people just don’t like popular songs from the 1970s, nothing to do with race here at all. And yet, there is the liberal Jon Chait explaining that we must never impute racial motifs to such Republican themes  as “tax cuts” because, well, because that would be “insane”. These Republicans must be granted the benefit of the doubt because - well because journalists who call them on their doubletalk lose their jobs. Simple as that.  

Johnathan Chait’s insane denial of Republican racism

Just a week or so ago, Paul Ryan, the Budget Guru of the Republican Party, went on Bill Bennet’s radio show and said:

“We have got this tailspin of culture, in our inner cities in particular, of men not working and just generations of men not even thinking about working or learning to value the culture of work, so there is a real culture problem here that has to be dealt with.”

If you were completely ignorant, you might wonder about that “inner cities” reference - because the poverty rate in rural America is higher than the rate in metropolitan America.  What, possibly, could it be about poor people in Detroit that is more attention getting than say, poor people in Eastern Kentucky? If you were in doubt, Mr. Ryan helpfully cited Charles Murray as his primary source on this cultural problem. Murray’s well debunked book, Bell Curve, tried to show that blacks and Latinos are just dumber than white Americans.  You might also recall that Bennet himself, just a few years ago said

"If you wanted to reduce crime, you could — if that were your sole purpose — you could abort every black baby in this country and your crime rate would go down.

Ryan was on Bennet’s show to sell his budget proposals which slash spending on social services and poverty reduction in order to fund tax cuts, mostly for the wealthy. So one might conclude that Ryan was trying to sell Bennet’s audience on a budget that would actually harm them by appealing to their prejudices. This would not be a new tactic.

We were in Tennessee. During a motorcade, the President spotted some ugly racial epithets scrawled on signs by a few plain, he called them homely, white women on the edge of the crowd. Late that night in the hotel, long past midnight, he was still going on about how poor whites and poor blacks had been kept apart so that they could separately be fleeced-. ”I’ll tell you what’s at the bottom of it,” he said. “If you can convince the lowest white man that he’s better than the best colored man, he won’t notice you’re picking his pocket. Hell, give him somebody to look down on, and he’ll even empty his pockets for you.” - Bill Moyers.

If we had a real free press in this country, Ryan would have been put in the spotlight and called to account here. He would have been pressed to explain why he won’t let President Obama’s Jobs bill come up for a vote, why he ignored rural poverty, what jobs he expects poor people in Baltimore or East Tennessee to get, whether he condemns or supports Charles Murray’s theories about white superiority, whether he really does mean what he so clearly implies - that black unemployment is due to uninterest in work. The media, if it were doing its job, would have made it difficult for Ryan to do a kind of nudge-nudge-wink-wink sales job and forced him to spell it out. By not doing that, the media allows Republicans to make racial appeals on the side, without owning up to them.

But our crappy media won’t do that - because the Republicans have been able to get reporters fired for exposing their racist game. Joe Williams lost his job and go called “the real racist” for pointing out the obvious: that Mitt Romney even looked uncomfortable around black audiences.  So here is Chait with the excuse:

Yet here is the point where, for all its breadth and analytic power, the liberal racial analysis collapses onto itself. It may be true that, at the level of electoral campaign messaging, conservatism and white racial resentment are functionally identical. It would follow that any conservative argument is an appeal to white racism. That is, indeed, the all-but-explicit conclusion of the ubiquitous Atwater Rosetta-stone confession: Republican politics is fundamentally racist, and even its use of the most abstract economic appeal is a sinister, coded missive.

Impressive though the historical, sociological, and psychological evidence undergirding this analysis may be, it also happens to be completely insane. Whatever Lee Atwater said, or meant to say, advocating tax cuts is not in any meaningful sense racist.

This is directly contradicted by the incident that sparked this whole discussion. Ryan is selling tax cuts to white people with the story that he wants to stop the government from giving their hard earned money to  lazy black people who don’t want to work.  But Chait won’t, can’t, refuses to admit what is in front of him because doing so would expose him to a vicious and effective Republican attack. The Right Wing media would explode into a fury of accusations that Chait was the real racist, that he was  liar, an anti-semite, a child molester, a forger, a Russia secret agent - whatever it takes. And the rest of the media would chime in in with stories about how Chait was facing accusations that, on the one hand, he denied, but on the other hand were being raised by many sources. The New York Times might write something like “The Liberal and Democratic partisan Chait, denies widely circulated stories that he has taken payments from the Obama Administration and forged documents, but critics insist there is plenty of proof.”  The Republican pushback got Joe Williams fired, it got Martin Bashir fired, it even got Dan Rather fired - Chait is not immune. So pontificating futiley is the safer course.