Patterico's Pontifications

9/18/2009

Our paranoid, race-baiting media

Filed under: General — Karl @ 3:48 pm



[Posted by Karl]

 The Obama presidency is running into growing opposition — as presidencies tend to do. However, for some reason, the Washington Post’s Anne Kornblut was interested in a racial hypothesis:

[White House communications director Anita] Dunn played down the role that race could have in fueling the rancor. “I think that is less a part of it than some other people might think,” she said.

It may be true, as Allahpundit suggests, that the White House refuses to accuse its opponents of racism directly because “every last halfwit in big media is happily willing to do it for them.” But these statements are not mutually exclusive. When Dunn speaks of “some other people,” she may well be thinking of the legacy media.

She may be thinking of New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd, who hears racist voices in her head. She may be thinking of the Washington Post coulmists Eugene Robinson and E.J. Dionne — or the paper’s media critic, Howard Kurtz. She may be thinking of TIME’s Joe Klein, as big a hypocrite as he may be on the subject. She may have read a McClatchy newspaper story about it. She may be thinking of the Atlantic’s Marc Ambinder, who confesses to hearing an inner Maureen Dowd voice. She may be thinking of The New Yorker’s Hendrik Hertzberg. She may be thinking of MSNBC’s Chris Matthews, or NBC’s Today show, which featured more imaginary voices in the head. She may be thinking of ABC News, or possibly CNN.

She may be thinking of the White House press corps, a sizeable portion of which wanted to drag Pres. Obama into their delusion after ex-Pres. Carter claimed that the “overwhelming” portion of animosity towards Obama is racist. Obama flack Robert Gibbs — despite saying that Pres. Obama did not think race was a factor — was badgered about it:

“Are you saying that the President is not concerned about the climate of hate in this country today?”

“You don’t think it’s race-based?”

“Robert, did the President see President Carter’s remarks and read them, in full?”

“Robert, just to put a fine point on it, speaking for the President, do you believe he disagrees with what Jimmy Carter said last night, fundamentally?”

“Would the President regard statements from such a prominent American, a former President, a son of the South, as he described himself, helpful in the whole country’s understanding or comprehensive or conversation about this subject, of his presidency, race, and criticism of his policy?”

“There’s obviously the President. Why is he or why are you so reluctant to talk about it? I mean, you were reluctant to talk about the House vote on Joe Wilson. You’re reluctant to talk about — I guess my question really is that he gave this big speech during the campaign on race. There’s now a conversation that’s risen to the level of a former President about race. Can we expect him to talk about that, to address it in any way, or is your hope to keep him away from this conversation and focused on other things?”

“If the incident in Cambridge was viewed in the President’s eyes as a teachable moment for the country, why is this not a teachable moment, in terms of the role that race is playing in society?”

“What impact does it have when a former President of the United States, someone who came from the South, someone who worked against discrimination all of his career, says that the — what was it — an overwhelming portion of the intensely demonstrated animosity is because he’s black? What effect does that have on the country when a former President says that?”

And so on.

On this topic, the legacy media have turned from investigatory journalism to hallucinatory journalism. To assist those still hearing voices in their heads, let’s use a visual aid:

For Carter to be correct, we would have to assume that a large portion of the population was unaware in late 2008 and early 2009 that Barack Obama is a person of color, or that an increasing portion of the public is turning racist. Occam’s Razor suggests the correct answer is that Carter is an unhinged, race-baiting demagogue.

And contrary to some White House correspondent, there is not “a national conversation going on about race and the role it has or hasn’t played in some of the hostility” toward the president. Only 12% of likely voters hold Carter’s view, most of whom are Democrats. Only 20% of registered voters hold Carter’s view, 34% of Democrats. Those figures are comparable to the 35% of Democrats who believed in 2007 that George Bush knew in advance about the 9/11 attacks. It is a view held by a minority of a minority. The legacy media’s seeming obsession with the notion says far more about them than the president’s critics.

Of course, establishment journalism’s delusions about the Right extend beyond the casual imputation of racism. The legacy media has also been obsessed with the idea that the Right is thisclose to boiling over into violent revolution. Reason’s Jesse Walker has a must-read essay detailing the paranoid style in center-left politics and the history of past “brown scares” waged against the Right. In the current debate over ObamaCare, if the Obama=Hitler signs are actually the work of Lyndon LaRouche nuts who support Canadian-style medicine, the legacy media will not notice. If furthering the narrative of the “angry white man” opposition to ObamaCare requires MSNBC to lop off the head of an African-American man holding a rifle with a video editor, so be it. These acts and omissions further a “larger truth,” which is to say a narrative not tethered to reported fact.

At this point, I should take a moment to concede that some of Pres. Obama’s critics may well be racists, and may hold extreme views. On the other hand, I can find Hispanics in New Jersey (most of whom are likely not members of Radical Right) who think that Obama is the Anti-Christ, or are “birthers” or “truthers.” Indeed, the same poll has half of the African-Americans surveyed as truthers.

We could also look at the 2005 study which showed that a majority of blacks believed that a cure for AIDS was being withheld from the poor; that nearly half believed that AIDS was man-made, with a quarter believing that it was created in a US government laboratory and 12 percent naming the CIA as its source. Such fringe conspiracy theories were peddled by the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, whom Pres. Obama counted as his spiritual adviser until Wright’s comments before the National Press Club made his extremism politically impossible to dismiss. Extremism is not difficult to find in any large demographic, but the legacy media only sees it selectively.

Many on the Right presume the legacy media acts as it does to marginalize the president’s critics and to cover up the extremism to be found on the Left. However, that is a fairly charitable hypothesis. In discussing the (forced) resignation of Obama’s “green jobs czar” Van Jones, lefty blogger-activist Jane Hamsher not only noted that 35% of Democrats were truthers, but suggested that such extreme views were broadly held by the liberal institutional elite, who are presumably better informed and educated on politics than the general public. Thus, the question presents itself as to whether the legacy media covers extremism as it does due to extremism within the legacy media.

Continuing with the Van Jones case, consider that the New York Times failed to cover the story until he was forced out, and then with this lede: “In a victory for Republicans and the Obama administration’s conservative critics, Van Jones resigned as the White House’s environmental jobs “czar” on Saturday.” The news was not — and never was to the NYT — that Van Jones had been a communist Truther; the news was that conservatives had somehow won a victory. No wonder that Tom Brokaw and Tom Friedman took to NBC’s Meet The Press to blame the messenger.

Similarly, in covering the ongoing scandals plaguing Pres. Obama’s old friends at ACORN, the first headline from the NYT did not address the substance of the scandals, but proclaimed: “Conservatives Draw Blood From Acorn.” Other outlets, including the L.A. Times, had the same take on the story. It might be argued that the NYT and the LAT are covering the story up, but ABC World News Tonight anchor Charlie Gibson was unaware there even was an ACORN story. Moreover, some of the questions from the White House presser quoted above were lobbed by Helen Thomas, and few can doubt that she is so fully marinated in her left-wing extremism that she sees no manipulation or dishonesty in what she is doing.

The picture that emerges may not be that of clever, biased journalists highlighting extremism on the Right and whitewashing it on the Left. The picture may be of intellectually lazy, incurious, knee-jerk liberal journalists for whom the extremism of the Left does not register as all that extreme, and for whom the concerns of half the population do not even register as legitimate subjects of news coverage.

In short, we may be looking at a case for Hanlon’s Razor: “Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity.” Of course, I would not want to engage in the same sort of gross generalizations discussed above. Life is just too complex for that. Accordingly, we could also employ Heinlein’s Razor: “Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity, but don’t rule out malice.”

–Karl

32 Responses to “Our paranoid, race-baiting media”

  1. As an aside, this quote Karl has of a reporter: ““What impact does it have when a former President of the United States, someone who came from the South, someone who worked against discrimination all of his career, …” is in fact a brazen lie. Jimmy Carter not only did not work “against” discrimination all of his career but rather brazenly supported segregation for much of his political career.

    SPQR (26be8b)

  2. we would have to assume that a large portion of the population was unaware in late 2008 and early 2009 that Barack Obama is a person of color, or that an increasing portion of the public is turning racist

    there’s another option: we were racist in 2008 but voted for Obama despite our racism but are not letting our true colors show.

    hmmm, while we would be correctly be described as racists opposing Obama, would our opposition be because of our racism or incidental to our racism?

    I’ll just stick with the easy answer: Carter is a jerk and everybody who voted for him in 1976 still owes the country an apology.

    steve sturm (3811cf)

  3. Allahpundit had a post about how the racism charge is being so overused so as to render it nearly meaningless. Some brilliant commenter wrote something to that effect over a year ago, long before this national orgy of race-baiting.

    JD (c4445a)

  4. True enough, and you can say the same thing regarding screeches of “Hitler!” and “Fascism!” If you cry wolf all the time, when the real thing actually appears, who will be left to listen? I also find it amusing that Hitler was a creature of the National Socialist Party, another salient point lost on the lefty nutbags.

    Dmac (a93b13)

  5. Clarence Page of the Chicago Tribune, at one time a conservative newspaper, said on TV during the Rev. Wright saga that Wright’s views were held by many educated blacks. I was amazed that he was honest about it. If you listen to WVON radio in Chicago for 15 minutes you would find that to be true. Also think about the recent story about the white kid getting beat up in Bellville, IL; if the roles were reversed and a black kid got beat up by whites J. Jackson, Sharpton, etc., would be drooling all over TV day and night for days on end with the Rachel Maddows (I think I can reveal here that JD has a crush on her) of the world denouncing all such racial hatred spewed by whitey. Anyway, I got a steak waiting for me so Peace out.

    BT (78b929)

  6. As I have said many times before (that sounds familiar) whenever I am called a racist, I always respond, “Hell, yeah…I love NASCAR!’ The reaction is usually stunned silence, as it is not in the playbook. I also believe that the word is so over-used as to have been rendered useless.

    Gazzer (22ecdc)

  7. Just a small personal note. I had the opportunity to meet and converse at some length with Anita Dunn in 1994.

    Trust me, my friends, this woman is utterly despicable, without a single shred of personal integrity or ethics, and a moral compass that permanently points south.

    She is the archetypal political hyper-partisan, for whom the end more than justifies the means. To her, lying and character assassination in the pursuit of a political objective are completely justified, and she has no problem whatsoever with either tactic.

    It makes me shudder — but doesn’t surprise me in the least — that an utterly worthless piece of trash like her is the communications director for this White House.

    Steve Levy (430f8c)

  8. With regard to Carter, this is of interest.

    When former president Jimmy Carter accuses the opponents of Barrack Obama’s policy of nationalizing broad aspects of our economy and spending us into bankruptcy of being “racists,” perhaps he should look in the mirror. In his 1982 book, Keeping Faith, Carter disingenuously said he “was not directly involved in the early struggles to end racial discrimination.” No kidding — in fact, he directly and unambiguously supported segregation. When Carter returned to Plains, Georgia, to become a peanut farmer after serving in the Navy, he became a member of the Sumter County School Board, which did not implement the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision handed down by the Supreme Court. Instead, the board continued to segregate school children on the streets of Carter’s hometown.

    As Laughlin McDonald, director of the ACLU’s Voting Project, relates in his book A Voting Rights Odyssey: Black Enfranchisement in Georgia, Carter’s board tried to stop the construction of a new “Elementary Negro School” in 1956. Local white citizens had complained that the school would be “too close” to a white school. As a result, “the children, both colored and white, would have to travel the same streets and roads in order to reach their respective schools.” The prospect of black and white children commingling on the streets on their way to school was apparently so horrible to Carter that he requested that the state school board stop construction of the black school until a new site could be found. The state board turned down Carter’s request because of “the staggering cost.” Carter and the rest of the Sumter County School Board then reassured parents at a meeting on October 5, 1956, that the board “would do everything in its power to minimize simultaneous traffic between white and colored students in route to and from school.”

    I am not aware that Rep. Joe Wilson has ever supported segregation or engaged in the same type of reprehensible, racist behavior. The idea that opposition to Obama’s policies reflects “racism” is absurd; even the White House has rejected it. All of this raises a larger issue about Carter’s remarks. When he makes such a claim, is he projecting his own inner racial beliefs? Is he so guilt-ridden over his past racist behavior that he wants to make amends to the race-baiters that today populate the Left? Or is he just cynically helping them score political points?

    Carter is the dregs of the earth as a person. Novak, in his book “Prince of Darkness,” says that he immediately learned that Carter would lie about minor matters. He lies when the truth would serve.

    Mike K (2cf494)

  9. BT – That made me throw up a little in the back of my mouth. Thanks a lot.

    JD (f0aec3)

  10. Go Red Raiders !!!!!

    JD (f0aec3)

  11. That made me throw up a little in the back of my mouth. Thanks a lot.
    Comment by JD — 9/18/2009 @ 5:40 pm

    I thought you liked steak. 😉

    Stashiu3 (8cadeb)

  12. “…Hitler was a creature of the National Socialist Worker’s Party…”

    There. Fixed that for you.
    Don’t want to deprive him of the allegiences of all those good union members.

    AD - RtR/OS! (b0eb12)

  13. I also adore sushi. Okay, I am going to denounce myself.

    Dead animals. Yeah. I love animals. They taste great.

    JD (9019c8)

  14. “All of this raises a larger issue about Carter’s remarks. When he makes such a claim, is he projecting his own inner racial beliefs? Is he so guilt-ridden over his past racist behavior that he wants to make amends to the race-baiters that today populate the Left? Or is he just cynically helping them score political points?”

    I’m thinking it’s simply a matter of “the best defense is a good offense”. One of the Alinsky rules has to be about making your opponent always on the defensive so that they can never set the agenda.

    MD in Philly (d4f9fa)

  15. MD – It has much to do with the Dems propensity, with the help of their MSM, to simply rewrite history so as to best service Teh Narrative.

    JD (9019c8)

  16. Great post, Karl. Nice to hear some more information on Carter, our former White Supremacist President.

    It’s amazing that our media failed to bring up this salient fact about Carter’s past.

    Are they, in fact, covering up his racist behavior because they secretly approve of it?

    Apogee (e2dc9b)

  17. To what does ex-Pres Carter attribute our overwhelming animosity toward him?

    kaf (525681)

  18. kaf – That would be our rabid anti-terrorist-sympathizer-ism.

    JD (9019c8)

  19. To explain an odd trend such as this I present a story from the paper of record with a tail about the “cascade”.

    Neo (7830e6)

  20. Jimmie Carter, to paraphrase an old joke told by women,……. “If Jimmie Carter(a man) says something and there’s no one(a woman) around, is he still wrong?

    Answer: Absolutely YES.

    Paul S (8ce79d)

  21. BTW, Karl. Thanks to the 947 links, you crashed my BlackBerry. Great post though …

    JD (9019c8)

  22. The picture that emerges may not be that of clever, biased journalists highlighting extremism on the Right and whitewashing it on the Left. The picture may be of intellectually lazy, incurious, knee-jerk liberal journalists for whom the extremism of the Left does not register as all that extreme, and for whom the concerns of half the population do not even register as legitimate subjects of news coverage.

    Exactamundo! that’s the Money Graph of the Week right there. Quite well said.

    Mike D. (c513a5)

  23. Brilliant essay, Karl. Thanks.

    These are the presidents of my lifetime: Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, G.H.W. Bush, Clinton, G.W. Bush, and Obama.

    In my opinion, Nixon, Carter and Clinton were the worst 3. Of course, Obama has been in office barely 9 months, so it is unfair to rate him yet. (Predictions are something else, but I digress.)

    Nixon and Clinton were bad because, among other things, they made abuses by the holder of the office of president or the United States more acceptable. (Sure, Nixon was forced to resign, but look how the White House staffs have become more and more ruthless.) Nixon perhaps could have been a good president but for his acting on his paranoia. Clinton could have been a good president but for his alleged perjury and use of his office to obstruct justice. (I say “alleged” because he wasn’t convicted of any crime.) Carter was bad, period, and was the worst. I agree with Senator McCain’s comment on Carter, which is the subject of another thread.

    But what about the de facto office of “ex-president.” Add Hoover to my list and, of course, remove Obama. Once again, Carter is the worst. This time, the distance between him and the next worst is gigantic. Carter started off fine with the Habitat for Humanity project. But, Carter’s ineffective and perhaps counterproductive meddling in foreign affairs, his anti-Israel screeds, and his latest adventure into diviseness have turned what might have been a good ex-president legacy into a travesty. I hope America is not hurt by it.

    Ira (28a423)

  24. Fantastic piece, Karl, and a lot of great work. Your links are collectibles!

    Re: malice vs. stupidity, this is the neverending puzzle to me. But in my paradigm they are not mutually exclusive but always intersecting. I believe Pelosi embodies both, just for starters.

    Our paranoid, race-baiting media is aggressively mediocre, intellectually incoherent and in many ways supremely incompetent. But there’s no denying a number of them are driven by malice towards US. In reviewing the media, both stupidity and malice are on display simultaneously, IMHO.

    Peg C. (48175e)

  25. “Hitler was a creature of the National Socialist Worker’s Party”

    I love how easily right-wingers admit that their problem with Hitler was that he was allied with workers.

    Unapologetic Mexican (08580c)

  26. And to think I share some of the same blood as disingenuous Mexican. You sure do like to rip things right out of context, don’t you?

    And, Ira, Clinton was indeed convicted of perjury and was (temporarily) disbarred for it. Nothing “alleged” about it.

    John Hitchcock (3fd153)

  27. Disingenuous Mexican, tell me who is being racist here:

    SomeNYGuy said,
    February 28, 2009 at 8:29
    Actually, it is a bit humorous to hear people calling me a racist, considering my heritage.
    Being related to Michael Steele, Alan Keyes or Juan Williams doesn’t count.

    Clarence Thomas said, (note the name-switch I saw frequently on this site)
    February 28, 2009 at 8:31
    I have nothing against n*ggers[altered in case PP doesn’t allow the despicable word]; I just wouldn’t want to marry one.

    You Can’t Put Lipstick On A Repig said,
    February 28, 2009 at 8:32
    Being related to Michael Steele, Alan Keyes or Juan Williams doesn’t count.
    These guys never get their hands shook at GOP functions and still can’t figure out why.

    SomeNYGuy said,
    February 28, 2009 at 8:37
    TBD, look up the word “kapo” re: concentration camps. Some cowards will do anything, even turn on their own, if they think they’ll get preferential treatment from those in power.

    Cerberus said,
    February 28, 2009 at 8:38
    That’s impossible, the space brain surely can solve the mystery that belies FYWP.
    Hell, I bet wordpress is like an easily shattered Matrix to the space brains of Conservatism. Only through focus can they see the patterns of blacks and Jews that plot behind the wordpress format.
    Wolverines!

    Truth Before Dishonor said,
    February 28, 2009 at 8:43
    So, snyg, you are indeed calling any non-white people who vote Republican race-traitors? How tolerant of you.

    SomeNYGuy said,
    February 28, 2009 at 8:46
    So, snyg, you are indeed calling any non-white people who vote Republican race-traitors?
    In the current political climate? Unequivocally, yes.

    John Hitchcock (3fd153)

  28. Note the date. The “current political climate” had a half-black, half-white Democrat President, a 77-seat-advantage Democrat House and a Senate with 59 (at that time) Democrats. And they were saying stuff about cowards choosing to support teh powah as reason for non-whites supporting conservatives!? Again, who are the racists, disingenuous Mexican?

    John Hitchcock (3fd153)

  29. You love arguing with the volices in your head, unapologetic.

    JD (e68c1a)

  30. From John Hitchcock’s comment #27:

    And, Ira, Clinton was indeed convicted of perjury and was (temporarily) disbarred for it. Nothing “alleged” about it.

    Thanks, John.

    I had forgotten that the Senate’s not finding Clinton guilty on the articles of impeachment was not the end of the matter.

    From:
    http://www.nytimes.com/2001/01/20/us/transition-in-washington-the-president-exiting-job-clinton-accepts-immunity-deal.html?sec=&spon=&pagewanted=1

    In a stunning end to the long melodrama and pitched legal battles over President Clinton’s relationship with a White House intern, Mr. Clinton today agreed to a settlement in which he will avoid the possibility of indictment in exchange for admitting that he gave false testimony under oath and agreeing to surrender his law license for five years.
    On the last full day of his presidency, Mr. Clinton completed the agreement with Robert W. Ray, the independent counsel who had been investigating whether to charge Mr. Clinton after he leaves office with crimes like perjury, obstruction of justice and making false statements because of his sworn testimony about his relationship with the intern, Monica Lewinsky.
    The agreement ended any criminal liability for President Clinton in the collective matters known as Whitewater and ended the wide-ranging, $60 million independent counsel investigation that plagued Mr. Clinton and his wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton, for much of their time in the White House.
    For the first time, the president explicitly admitted that ”certain of my responses to questions about Ms. Lewinsky were false,” when he gave a deposition in January 1998 in the Paula Jones sexual misconduct case. [Text, Page A20.]
    Mr. Clinton also agreed to pay a fine of $25,000 to the Arkansas Bar Association, which had been considering whether to have him disbarred, and also promised not to seek reimbursement of any legal fees from a federal court — something he would be entitled to do under the independent counsel law as someone investigated but not indicted.
    His two-page statement, written after weeks of negotiations between Mr. Ray’s office and Mr. Clinton’s lawyers, was read aloud by Jake Siewert, Mr. Clinton’s press secretary, in the White House briefing room.

    At the heart of the investigations by Mr. Ray and the Arkansas bar committee were statements Mr. Clinton gave in a sworn deposition on Jan. 17, 1998, in a sexual misconduct lawsuit brought by Paula Jones, a one-time Arkansas state employee. In the deposition given before Judge Susan Webber Wright of Federal District Court in Little Rock, Mr. Clinton denied that he had ever been alone with Ms. Lewinsky in the Oval Office and said that he had not engaged in sexual relations with her.

    “I have had occasion frequently to reflect on the Jones case,” Mr. Clinton’s statement said. ”In this consent order I acknowledge having knowingly violated Judge Wright’s discovery orders in my deposition in that case.
    ”I tried to walk a line between acting lawfully and testifying falsely but I now recognize that I did not fully accomplish this goal and that certain of my responses to questions about Ms. Lewinsky were false.”

    In Pulaski County Court in Arkansas, where Mr. Clinton was facing a trial after he left office on charges by a bar committee over his fitness to practice law, a judge today approved the resolution of a five-year suspension of his law license.

    As the negotiations began in earnest in the last several days, Mr. Clinton did not know whether he would be indicted. Mr. Ray had said he would make that decision a few weeks after the new president was inaugurated.
    Mr. Ray had, in fact, not yet decided what to do but the threat of that possibility seemed to concentrate Mr. Clinton’s thinking that he would like to avoid that risk and accept some terms.
    Another factor creating a bit of deadline pressure was that the bar committee in Arkansas — brought into the negotiations recently in order to fashion an overall settlement — said that its acceptance of a five-year suspension would expire at the end of business today.

    From the start of negotiations, Mr. Ray’s office insisted on two conditions: Mr. Clinton would have to make a public statement admitting more than he previously had, and he would have to accept some sort of sanction.
    Both sides agreed that a suspension of his law license would suffice as sanction, and Mr. Clinton had months earlier signalled his willingness to accept a suspension to settle the Arkansas case.
    The agreement on the five-year suspension ended the disbarment proceedings that Mr. Clinton had faced in his home state.

    Ira (28a423)

  31. Note, the spaces in the quote from the NY Times article are intended to indicate skipped text.

    Ira (28a423)


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