Glenn "Instapundit" Reynolds today linked to what he called "EASTER THOUGHTS" from one of his favorite right-wing blogs
gers, his namesake, "Instapunk." That Easter post has a large picture of a crucified Christ along with a lovely religious poem.
Immediately beneath that righteous celebration of Easter is a somewhat less charitable post purporting to take up Barack Obama's invitation to speak about race. After listing a few black entertainers and sports figures he says he likes, here are some of the thoughts Instapunk offers on race:
On the other hand, I am sick to death of black people as a group. The truth. That is part of the conversation Obama is asking for, isn't it? I live in an eastern state almost exactly on the fabled Mason-Dixon line. Every day I see young black males wearing tee shirts down to their knees -- and jeans belted just above their knees. I'm an old guy. I want to smack them. All of them. They are egregious stereotypes. It's impossible not to think the unthinkable N-Word when they roll up beside you at a stoplight in their trashed old Hondas with 19-inch spinner wheels and rap recordings that shake the foundations of the buildings. . . .
Here's the dirty secret all of us know and no one will admit to. There ARE niggers. Black people know it. White people know it. And only black people are allowed to notice and pronounce the truth of it. Which would be fine. Except that black people are not a community but a political party. They can squabble with each other in caucus but they absolutely refuse to speak the truth in public. And this is the single biggest obstacle to healing the racial divide in this country.
I'm not proposing the generalized use of the term, just trying to be clear for once, in the wake of Obama's call for us to have a dialogue about race. However much they may scream and protest, black people will know what I mean when I demand they concede that the following people are niggers:
- Jeremiah Wright
- O.J. Simpson
- Marion Barry
- Alan Iverson
- William Jefferson
- Louis Farrakhan
- Mike Tyson . . .
You see, you've just given life to the suspicion that black people in America are, and have long been, a fifth column -- unanimously hating the very country that has afforded the highest standard of living ever achieved by black people in human history. We're teetering at the edge of believing that you're a secret society, a massive collection of sleeper cells just waiting for your chance to do serious harm to the rest of us. You've made it possible for us to believe that. Because you're never outraged by what the worst black people do. Because you continue to make excuses for what should be inexcusable to everyone.
This is just a slightly more explicit version of what one hears on so much right-wing talk radio, beginning with conservative hero Rush Limbaugh. Why is there so much hatred and extremism in black churches? Let's talk more and more about all the racism and radicalism among isolated black people and ignore the endless bile that has long spewed forth from the far more powerful appendages of the right-wing noise-machine, exemplified by Instapunk's Easter meditation on race.
While the dominant political faction in the United States built itself and continues to feed and nourish itself with this sort of endless exploitation of racial resentments and grievances -- and while it openly embraces far more powerful religious fanatics who espouse ideas at least as radical and repugnant as anything Jeremiah Wright has ever said -- let's spend the next eight months talking about the controversial comments of a single, comparatively powerless black preacher and have our presidential election decided by that.
UPDATE: In comments, DrEyeBall makes a good and important point:
Don't be fooled into thinking that this applies only to African-Americans. The sense of threatened tribalism is at the root of movement conservatism, and always has been.
This is why it was so easy to sell most of white America on the Iraq war. Polls showed that 2/3 thought that Saddam had something to do with 9/11, or at least close ties to AlQ. . . .
Take almost any one of their "thoughtful" screeds about Islam and do a global search/replace from "Islam" to "niggers" and the text becomes instantly recognizable. This racist energy had for a long time been at least partly directed towards "the Communists" but now that it isn't it is pretty much clear that Islam is now the designated nigger.
There is no better phrase to describe the animating feature of the modern Limbaugh/Kristol/Fox News conservative faction than "threatened tribalism." The belief that they are good and pure, yet subjected to unprecedented systematic unfairness and threatened by some lurking Evil Other against whom war must be waged (the Muslim, the Immigrant, the Terrorist, the Communist, the Liberal, the Welfare Queen) is the centerpiece of their ugly worldview.
The sentiments expressed here by Instapunk are now most commonly expressed towards the New Enemy -- the Muslim -- but the Wright episode is a nice reminder of how seamlessly it gets directed towards a whole host of other threatening, bad groups. Hence the blithe application of the term "sleeper cells" to black Americans. That's what coalesces them and justifies everything. What matters is that there be some scary, malicious group about to harm them and America. The identity of the particular scary group at any given moment is really secondary.
UPDATE II: Instapunk's far-from-uncommon thoughts on race illustrate another significant point. What explains the media's Obama/Wright fixation while virtually ignoring McCain's embrace of people like Rod Parsley and John Hagee is the assumption that the controversial behavior of any one black person is easily attributed to black people generally, while white political leaders aren't held accountable for the views of others solely by virtue of shared race. That dynamic is what explains this -- Tim Russert interviewing Barack Obama, January 22, 2006:
MR. RUSSERT: I want to talk a little bit about the language people are using in the politics now of 2006, and I refer you to some comments that Harry Belafonte made yesterday. He said that Homeland Security had become the new Gestapo. What do you think of that?
MR. RUSSERT: Mr. Belafonte went to Venezuela, as you well know, some time ago and met with the Hugo Chavez, leader of that country, and said some things that obviously were noted in this country and around the world. Let's listen, and come back and talk about it. . . . Is it appropriate to call the President of the United States "the greatest terrorist in the world"?
Barack Obama has nothing to do with Harry Belafonte and yet, out of the blue, Tim Russert demanded that he opine on Belafonte's statements -- just as Russert demanded that Obama renounce Louis Farrakhan's. Here, to my knowledge, is the only other time Russert ever asked anyone about the statements of Harry Belafonte -- Tim Russert interviewing Colin Powell, May 4, 2003:
MR. RUSSERT: You mentioned criticism of Castro. In fact, some artists and writers from the United States of America, led by Harry Belafonte, said that the United States has been guilty of harassment of Cuba, and this is a pretext for invasion.
By stark contrast, there is never any assumption that John McCain shares the radical and vehemently "anti-American" views of his "spiritual guide" Rod Parsley or John Hagee, whose endorsements he sought and with whom he has shared a stage and lavishly praised. What accounts for that extreme disparity in media treatment? (That Obama has a closer relationship to Wright than McCain does with Parsley/Hagee is a separate issue, for the reason explained in the first paragraph here). Instapunk's observations shed significant light on the reasons for that disparity.
UPDATE III: As Zack points out in comments, here's what the other right-wing "Insta" blogger -- Glenn "Instapundit" Reynolds -- said about Jeremiah Wright a couple of weeks ago after citing an article which mentioned that Oprah Winfrey was also a member of Trinity Church:
That's from a 2007 Chicago Tribune piece via Hot Air. This kind of makes me see Oprah a bit differently, too. "Not many people would associate Oprah's easygoing nature and warm, welcoming appeal with the kind of oratory provided by Wright." As with Mitt Romney on guns, I'm starting to think that they haven't been entirely straight with us.
Indeed. It's only a matter of time before even the most seemingly well-intentioned black people get exposed as the white-hating extremists that they are. Even Oprah. Or, as Instapundit's long-time political comrade, Instapunk, put it on Friday: "We're teetering at the edge of believing that you're a secret society, a massive collection of sleeper cells just waiting for your chance to do serious harm to the rest of us."
UPDATE IV: Just two weeks ago, Instapundit (which is, revealingly enough, one of Karl Rove's favorite blogs) promoted and praised a separate post on race by Instapunk, which proclaimed that (h/t Zack):
- Barack Obama "is none of us";
- "in his heart of hearts Obama understands nothing and no one, because he has never belonged anywhere or truly participated in anything";
- "It's Michelle Obama who hates America";
- it's feminists who have "done more to destroy the black family and promote the epidemic of children born out of wedlock than any conspiracy Jeremiah Wright could ever dream up"; and,
- "Even though Obama is not and never was an African-American, he has always been black enough to benefit from the superannuated slave culture that forgives every corruption and hypocrisy in those who have any claim on being black."
Reynolds is promoting ugly bile of this sort for one simple reason -- because, as always, exploiting racial resentments is one of the principal tribalistic weapons on which the Right intends to rely in order to win the election. As one blogger just wrote via email:
What I don't understand is why Glenn R. continues to visit and link to a blog where such racist sentiments are permitted to be posted. He must be aware that InstaPunk is a blog that permits contributors to spout venomous racial hatred. Why doesn't he find another blog to visit? I mean, if it were me, I would not keep up an association with a blog that thinks it's okay to let a contributor be so hateful. Why doesn't he disavow this guy?
She has more here. As Reynolds himself wrote the other day about Obama: "Obama is giving us a 'national conversation on race,' but mostly by letting a lot of white people realize just what circulates, unremarked, in the black community." I believe that's similar to the way that the blogs and posts Instapundit promotes "let a lot of people realize just what circulates, unremarked, in the right-wing sewers."
UPDATE V: Mark Kleiman joins in with the standard horde of right-wing blogs defending Glenn Reynolds and says this:
When Reynolds sends an item link to a posting of the Easter poem "Dulce lignem dulce clavo" by InstaPunk contributor "Chain Gang," I don't see where Glenn Greenwald is justified in tying Reynolds to the racist rant posted on the same site by a different contributor, "Old Punk."
Glenn Reynolds sometimes says, and links to, silly and offensive stuff (for example this swipe at Oprah, which Greenwald points to in an update) and I haven't been backward in criticizing him. But he didn't endorse "Old Punk's" diatribe, even by implication, and I thought our side tried to be above guilt-by-association. Has that changed?
Somehow I keep missing these crucial memos.
The original purpose in pointing out that Instapunk is a favorite blog of Glenn Reynolds was not to suggest that Reynolds is directly responsible for the particular racist screed I quoted, but rather, to demonstrate that I did not select some obscure unread blog nor go searching deep in the comment sections in order to find something inflammatory -- the typical method used to generate almost every liberal blog "controversy" -- but instead had found this written by a principal contributor on one of the most heavily-promoted right-wing blogs.
Nonetheless, the updates here demonstrate that Reynolds has promoted and himself expressed similar sentiments regarding the Obama/Wright matter, albeit in less explicit form. That's how the right-wing always works. The more respectable venues promote more tepid versions of the filth being spewed by the darker corners of the noise machine, so as to keep a safe distance while simultaneously ensuring that it ends up widely circulated (see e.g., Obama's madrassa education, Bill Clinton's string of rape victims and drug running operations, John McCain's black illegitimate baby, and John Kerry's Swift Boat adventures). Playing along with this transparent game by overlooking how the mainstream venues promote these attacks and thus not holding them accountable is foolish.
Kleiman's sermon raises another point far more important than Reynolds' connection to these particular racist attacks. When the Right uses dishonest tactics to demonize a Democratic candidate -- as they just spent the last two weeks doing with Barack Obama -- one has two options and only two options:
(1) Turn one's nose up and declare oneself to be far above such tactics, way too noble to get anywhere near them, so that one can pat oneself on the back for one's purity and goodness ("I didn't use Paisley and Hagee against McCain because that's not right to do") while spending the next four years complaining about the John McCain administration; or,
(2) Take whatever standards the Right uses -- no matter how depraved and dishonest those standards are -- and demand that they be applied equally, not only by them, but also to them, to ensure that these distortive tactics are either applied to both sides or not at all.
Kleiman apparently prefers option (1). I don't. In a perfect world, presidential candidates (and everyone else) would be judged only by their own words and actions, with a primary focus on what they will do in office. But as we just saw this last week -- and as we've seen repeatedly over the last many years as Democrats are forced in ritualistic sideshows to "repudiate" whoever the Extremist of the Week happens to be (Michael Moore, MoveOn, Louis Farrakhan) -- we don't live in that world.
Whoever the Democratic candidate is will be subjected to these "guilt-by-association" attacks, leaving as the only question: will that be a one-sided attack or will there be a demand that it be applied mutually, fairly and equally? Those most interested in showing how noble they are will be happy to have it be one-sided. Those most interested in doing what is possible to prevent a John McCain presidency will insist that it be applied equally.
UPDATE VI: Three disparate though relevant posts:
(1) On the narrowest and least important issue, here are still more instances of Reynolds promoting "ideas" similar to (though more politely expressed than) those advocated by Instapunk.
(2) Steve Benen documents the virtually complete media silence regarding John McCain's active embrace of right-wing extremists -- the central objective in my writing this post.
(3) Digby, in a long post which is well worth the time to read, examines why these divisive racial and culture tactics from the Right are inevitable, and how ignoring them -- as some seem to want to do -- achieves nothing other than ensuring that they fester with no response.
UPDATE VI: University of Colorado Law Professor Paul Campos, in an Op-Ed in the Rocky Mountain News, examines this matter and highlights the actual points being made, rather than the silly, transparent straw men Reynolds and his comrades have spent days angrily attacking.