Sunday, October 26, 2008

So much for no politics: musings about racialism

I've been very upset all weekend.

I don't think this campaign has to be, to borrow a word from Ali G, "racialist." On either side! That is, honestly, I don't think the McCain campaign is "racialist" either, and I believe that the Senators are doing their best to keep things above board.

Not so for Fox News. And you may be surprised to find out that Fox News's News Director John Moody called John McCain (and much of white America) racist on Friday.

In an extraordinarily over-stated, ill-advised blog posting John Moody puts all his eggs in a tremendously dubious basket. It's a dangerous gamut. It reminds me of Al Franken's presidential nemesis in Why Not Me?, who promises to "eat his hat" if something doesn't happen his way, and Franken's brother follows him around New Hampshire with a hat and a place setting for weeks. (It's a funny book, and not too liberal for those of you who are turned off by Franken's other work). Before quoting Moody, I should mention that Moody's voicemail, according to a disgruntled poster at a Ron Paul forum, can be reached at (212) 301-8560. News organizations are almost always responsive to the viewing public, so tell him how you feel, but keep it clean!

John Moody starts with the "Facts of the Case," even though the McCain campaign was disseminating its "details" despite the police's unwillingness to confirm the unconfirmable (patently false) allegations:

It had to happen.

Less than two weeks before we vote for a new president, a white woman says a black man attacked her, then scarred her face, and says there was a political motive for it.

Ashley Todd, a 20-year-old white volunteer for John McCain’s presidential campaign, says she was mugged at an ATM machine in Pittsburgh (my hometown) by a big black man. She further says he threw her down, then disfigured her by carving the letter “B” into her face with a sharp implement when he saw that she supported McCain, not Barack Obama.

First of all, what a stunning lede! Leave aside the facts of the case--that the "B" carved into her face was indeed backwards (which--conspiracy alert--is an anagram for "Barack WDs!"--as in, "Barack withdraws from race after crazed supporter goes crazy nuts") as if carved while looking in a mirror.

Nobody said Ashley Todd was all that bright.

It had to happen.

A) It didn't have to happen. Every day of my life I have walked around, and never once have I been the victim of a racially or politically motivated attack. I've never had anything carved into my skin. I've never been robbed outside an ATM. I had a Bush bumper sticker torn off my car in 2004 the day after the election (while they left the Kerry bumper sticker and the "Nixon/Lodge" bumper sticker alone--that was quite a car, I tell you), but that's the extent of my victimhood as far as political terrorism goes.
and B)It didn't "had to have happened," because, well, it didn't, uh, happen.

But, Mr. Moody, so what if it did happen? What then? Could you please absurdly overstate the racialist tensions in American society in a way that sets race relations back to the early 1970s and presumes we're still a nation that divides neatly into the two ethnic categories of "irate, anti-busing suburban parents" and "criminal, illiterate ghetto hoodrats"?

Part of the appeal of, and the unspoken tension behind, Senator Obama’s campaign is his transformational status as the first African-American to win a major party’s presidential nomination.

That does not mean that he has erased the mutual distrust between black and white Americans, and this incident could become a watershed event in the 11 days before the election.

Thanks, John! Just what the Dr. ordered, if the doctor is "herr" Doctor Strangelove!
Sometimes writers use utterly meaningless phrases. You know, "and the such as" and the like, as it were, you know, yada yada yada. What does "unspoken tension behind" exactly mean? There's no tension behind the appeal of his status. There may be tension against it, but there's no tension behind it.

And since when do we identify Barack Obama with all black Americans? Do we, white Americans, honestly fear pulling into an ATM and having Barack Obama give us a whuppin? This ain't Marcus-Garvey-time. He ain't Malcolm X. He's not even Martin Luther King, Jr. His path to the Senate as a liberal democratic candidate was actually quite conventional: a Columbia University education with some mild, uncontroversial protests (I think everyone--even Mr. Moody--can agree that Apartheid was a bad idea) that showed him a larger purpose and led him out of modest drug-use habits, some time working for non-profits, an excellent career at Harvard Law, time as a Civil Rights lawyer and law professor, and a consensus-building, pathologically careful figure in the IL State Senate. It's a fairly common liberal career path. I don't know when he had the time for scarin' white folk and attackin' them in the street.

OMG Obama, though, is finished. White people hate him. White people fear black people. That kind of reminds me of this moment from Dr. Strangelove.

Like Strangelove, Moody has a hard time not coming out and just saying what's his mind. Why not just say, "Black people shouldn't be president. They should be muggers." At least he'd get points for his honesty. Why not come out and say it? Whoops. Moody continues:

If Ms. Todd’s allegations are proven accurate, some voters may revisit their support for Senator Obama, not because they are racists (with due respect to Rep. John Murtha), but because they suddenly feel they do not know enough about the Democratic nominee.

Wait a minute... First of all, how can somebody "suddenly feel they do not know enough" about someone? That would imply that they know less than they already did. And if a racialized incident (and remember, "[Obama has not] erased the mutual distrust between black and white Americans, and this incident could become a watershed event") is the cause, how is that not a tad bit racialist? Hmm. Let's let that craaaaaaaaaaazy Marxist dictionary, the OED, settle this one.
A. n. An advocate or supporter of racism; a person whose words or actions display racial prejudice or discrimination. Also in extended use: a person who is prejudiced against people of other nationalities. Cf. RACIALIST n.

So subconsciously or consciously reevaluating your support for a person of a certain race because a common street thug didn't beat up a white woman is not at all racialist. It doesn't display "prejudice or discrimination." It's just a way of, you know, indexing people.

But this whole thing from Moody is not what really upset me. I got particularly angry when he decided to take on John McCain, and call him racialist:

If the incident turns out to be a hoax, Senator McCain’s quest for the presidency is over, forever linked to race-baiting.

The horror! And to think, I thought McCain could pull this one out. The McCain campaign ought to demand an apology from Moody, and soon.

But lest he put his own career on the line, remember, Moody was responsible in hedging: "if this turns out to be true..."

At least as News Director, he made sure his anchors and reporters--like the execrable excuse for a person, Carl Cameron (the only reporter who makes Dan Rather seem credible by comparison)--preached caution and made sure that they didn't full speed ahead with the story, via Wile E. Coyote into the mirage-tunnel:

Uh, whoops. Well, if you feel strongly about this, as a McCain supporter or white American whose racial motivations have been unfairly called into question, call up John Moody at (212) 301-8560. and tell him so. Journalists are responsible to the public, and I'm sure he'd be responsive to your opinions, positive or negative, and love the feedback.

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