Saturday, July 17, 2010

False Controversy, False Equivalence from the MSM

The Christian Science Monitor offers up an example of drawing false parallels, and of pretending that there's a controversy where none can reasonably be said to exist:
On one side are largely-white "tea party" members depicting President Obama as an African witch doctor, sparking a condemnation from the NAACP last week. On the other is the charge that the Obama Justice Department is "openly hostile" to enforcing civil rights laws against black racists, including members of the New Black Panther Party.

Both charges of racialism, if not outright racism, are incendiary and more powerful because there could be some truth behind each.
First, the historic record is clear that the bulk of decision making on the New Black Panthers case preceded the Obama Administration. Second, there's no actual evidence that the Obama Administration's resolution of the case was racially motivated. Yes, it can be said that "there could be some truth" behind some of the allegations, but rampant speculation that seems to boil down to, "The President is African American and so is the Attorney General, so it must be racial bias" is rank, irresponsible speculation. Was the Bush Administration demonstrating racial bias when it chose not to pursue criminal charges? The difference between "then" and "now" would be what? If you look at the historic context and ignore the President's race, this appears to be a "par for the course" disposition:
[T]he decision not to further pursue the civil case reflected long-standing practice regarding Section 11(b), which prior to the Bush administration had last been used to stop a statewide voter-caging effort. The allegation that would have supported pursuing a broader case was the idea that there was a nationwide effort to place New Black Panthers at polling stations for the purpose of suppressing white votes -- the original complaint read that the NBPP "made statements and posted notice that over 300 members of the New Black Panther Party for Self-Defense would be deployed at polling locations during voting on November 4, 2008, throughout the United States." The career attorneys recommended dismissing the case on the basis that there wasn't enough evidence to support that claim.

Not only did no voters come forward to say they had been intimidated by the NBPP that day, there were no further incidents on Election Day 2008 that would have suggested a large-scale effort to intimidate white voters. According to a letter sent to Rep. Lamar Smith by Assistant Attorney General Ronald Weich, the NBPP "suspended" its Philadelphia political chapter over the incident and subsequently disavowed their actions, which seems like an odd thing to do for an organization that is supposedly disclosing its attempt to intimidate white voters in its publicly available materials.
Second, there is no reasonable case that some of the imagery used by Tea Party members is racist, despite the protestation that the racial elements are "accidental". (Where have we heard that before.) I cannot imagine any reasonable person looking at the "Obama the Witch Doctor" poster and not seeing elements of racism.

I recognize that some people find it fun to race bait, then whine, "I didn't do anything racist - my message was completely different. So you must be a racist for thinking I did something racist." But really, if that wasn't the game and the proponent of the image isn't claiming to be exceptionally stupid, what's the defense? To the credit of the Tea Party movement, save for a handful of people who really don't seem very bright, I have not seen anything to suggest that the larger membership defends the use of the image, let alone endorses it.

With both of these controversies, the author paints with a very broad brush - maybe an obscure, isolated case means that somebody in the Justice Department is making decisions based upon race, and that stands as an indictment of the entire Obama Administration; and because a handful of idiots at Tea Party rallies proudly wave around "Obama as a Communist Witch Doctor" posters it somehow means that the tea party movement as a whole endorses the image. A better column would identify the actual parallel - using the actions of an individual or select few to attempt character assassination against a much larger group. (The logical fallacy of "Guilt by Association".)

Also, is it just me or does the entire article read like something you would find in a high school newspaper, or a mediocre college paper? Back in its print days, it's difficult to imagine the Christian Science Monitor running an article this poor.

2 comments:

  1. Oooh, I hate that "I'm not racist, you must be racist for thinking I'm racist!!1!!11!" crap. (I also hate "I was just kidding! Lighten up!" after a blatantly sexist thing, but that's another post). There is no justification for that "witch doctor" picture, *other* than it is a racial/racist statement.

    Re: the link to the "Obama money", to their credit, at least they didn't make the Kool-Aid grape. Asshats.

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  2. The Tea Party Movement uses incendiary rhetoric and imagery and, so far, appears to have expelled only one person "for going to far".

    It would be difficult to impossible for an actual grass roots movement to expel somebody, but when you look at the interlocking Tea Party organizations, their owners and sponsors, any of the movement's original grass has long been astroturfed over.

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