Charles M. Blow: Conservatism & Racism

Charles M. Blow of The New York Times often has interesting things to say about conservatism and racism, separately and as they relate to each other.

http://blow.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/03/03/red-light-states/

A study by Benjamin Edelman, an assistant professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School, titled “Red Light States: Who Buys Online Adult Entertainment?” and published in the most recent issue of the Journal of Economic Perspectives found that subscriptions to online pornography sites are “more prevalent in states where surveys indicate conservative positions on religion, gender roles, and sexuality.”

No surprise there.  It’s actually rather predictable.  It’s just human nature that what is forbidden becomes more tempting.  It’s the reason why conservative states have the highest divorce rates.  It’s why some studies have shown that abstinence education might actually increase sexual activity.  I suppose it’s even related to why the war on drugs is a complete failure considering the majority of the US population will use illegal drugs in their life.

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/09/opinion/09blow.html?partner=rssnyt&emc=rss

Simply put, it’s about fear-fueled anger. But anger is not an idea. It’s not a plan. And it’s not a vision for the future. It is, however, the second stage of grief, right after denial and before bargaining.

The right is on the wrong side of history. The demographics of the country are rapidly changing, young people are becoming increasingly liberal on social issues, and rigid, dogmatic religious stricture is loosening its grip on the throat of our culture.

The right has seen the enemy, and he is the future.

Yeah.  That has been my assessment for quite a while now.  Demographics are destiny.

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/04/opinion/04blow.html?_r=2

Lately I’ve been consuming as much conservative media as possible (interspersed with shots of Pepto-Bismol) to get a better sense of the mind and mood of the right. My read: They’re apocalyptic. They feel isolated, angry, betrayed and besieged. And some of their “leaders” seem to be trying to mold them into militias.

Many have already noted the every increasing outrage on the right. 

It is disconcerting that Christian fundamentalists and other rightwing extremists have been behind more terrorist incidents in the US than Muslims.  But what bothers me even more is that all of this anger is so unfocused or somehow unclear.  It doesn’t seem like many rightwingers are all that clear what they’re angry about and their anger too often seems misdirected.  They have reason to be angry, but I’d prefer they quit attacking doctors, police officers, gays, and people attending churches.

http://blow.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/02/25/not-yet-human/

Those following the New York Post cartoon flap might find this interesting.

Six studies under the title “Not Yet Human: Implicit Knowledge, Historical Dehumanization, and Contemporary Consequences” were published in last February’s Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

Among the relevant findings:

Historical representations explicitly depicting Blacks as apelike have largely disappeared in the United States, yet a mental association between Blacks and apes remains. Here, the authors demonstrate that U.S. citizens implicitly associate Blacks and apes.

And …

After having established that individuals mentally associate Blacks and apes, Study 4 demonstrated that this implicit association is not due to personalized, implicit attitudes and can operate beneath conscious awareness. In Study 5, we demonstrated that, even controlling for implicit anti-Black prejudice, the implicit association between Blacks and apes can lead to greater endorsement of violence against a Black suspect than against a White suspect. Finally, in Study 6, we demonstrated that subtle media representations of Blacks as apelike are associated with jury decisions to execute Black defendants.

This may provide some context for considering the motives of the cartoonist and his editors, and for understanding the strong public reaction.

I don’t have much to say about this other than pointing out that this is more evidence of the subtlety and pervasiveness of racism.

Obama and Our Post-Modern Race Problem

Obama and Our Post-Modern Race Problem
By Shelby Steele

The article begins with this premise:

America still has a race problem, though not the one that conventional wisdom would suggest: the racism of whites toward blacks. Old fashioned white racism has lost its legitimacy in the world and become an almost universal disgrace.

The problem is that the premise isn’t true.  Either the author is being dishonest for political reasons or he simply is uninformed.  It doesn’t really matter which.  Polls, statistics and psychological research prove beyond the slightest doubt that racism still exists and still influences people.  Yes, racism is less overt, but that isn’t what the author stated.

The rest of the article takes this race denial position and runs with it.  For the most part, the article is just ideological preaching to the choir… which is fine for whatever it’s worth.  My gripe is that it lacks substance or insight.  Combined with the beginning false premise, the author can accomplish nothing other than spinning a pretty web of rhetoric.  He even trots out good ol’ Reagan as if that will scare away all the boogeymen.

I don’t care if an ideological hack wants to write propaganda for the GOP.  More power to him.  But on the level of intellectual respectability this article is both sad and disappointing.  This is the best to be offered by the “senior research fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution”.  Really?

It irritates me.  The author hasn’t added any new insight, hasn’t made any reasonable arguments.  The worst part is just the false premise.  Shouldn’t someone who is apparently a respectable scholar actually do some research on a subject before making absolute statements?  It’s easy to dismiss racism, but back up your assertions.

I don’t mind Obama being criticized.  I love good criticism, but the only insightful criticism of Obama that I’ve seen actually has come from liberals (Cenk Uygur, Bill Maher, etc).  Conservatives have just been playing the role of obstructionists and so they feel obligated to simply repeat the party line.  The author of this article hasn’t said anything that a hundred other conservatives have said.  Yes, I understand.  Republicans don’t like Obama.  Okay, now forget the political talking points and please some conservative come forward with some original thoughts.  Quit trying to look good for future elections and just for one moment say something honest, something authentic.

Where are the intelligent conservatives?

Republican Politicians: Fear-mongering & Responsibility

Are Republican Elected Officials Backing the Violent Thugs?
By Howie Klein

[…]  But the most calamitous moment in the meeting came when someone in the audience asked about fear mongering by Hate Talkers like Glenn Beck. “What I would suggest,” said Inglis, “is turn that television off when he comes on.” The place exploded in rage and many got up and left — in effect, turning off Inglis, not Beck. Watch the video of an uncomfortable conservative Republican congressman facing his fascist base, reaping what his party has sown. Later Inglis talked with a local blogger who asked him if people exploded because he had used the word “fear-mongering” in relation to Beck:

“Probably,” Inglis said. “That’s what he does. That’s what Glenn Beck is all about. And Lou Dobbs. I’ve had the misfortune of listening to those shows a couple of times… I don’t listen often to Glenn Beck, but when I have, I’ve come away just so disappointed with the negativity… the ‘We’ve just gone to pot as a country,’ and ‘All is lost’ and ‘There is no hope.’ It’s not consistent with the America that I know. The America I know was founded by people who took tiny boats across a big ocean, and pushed west in tiny wagons, and landed on the moon. That’s the America I heard on the streets of Boiling Springs… The America that Glenn Beck seems to see is a place where we all should be fearful, thinking that our best days are behind us. It sure does sell soap, but it sure does a disservice to America… If Walter Cronkite said something like Glenn Beck said recently on the air, about the president being a racist, Cronkite would’ve been fired on the spot. But I guess the executives of these cable news shows are more enamored with the profits that come from selling this negative message than they are with undermining the faith of people in this wonderful constitutional republic.”

[…] This morning Mike Lux, author of my favorite book of this summer, The Progressive Revolution posted a question for GOP leaders at Open Left: What would it take for you to condemn the hatefulness?

Glenn Beck has said Barack Obama hates white people, and jokes about assassinating the Speaker of the House. Rush Limbaugh makes repeated and extended comparisons between Obama and Hitler. Mobs hang a congressman in effigy and physically attack people at a town hall meeting.Members of Congress have death threats issued against them, while other Members make jokes about lynching their colleagues.

With all of this hateful and violent rhetoric going on, I haven’t seen one Republican leader asking for people to cool their rhetoric, or heard them condemn any of these tactics. My question for Republican party, and their allies at conservative media companies that employ the kind of people making these remarks: what exactly would have to be said for you to distance yourself from these people? How far would someone have to go before you got uncomfortable with it? What would have to said before Fox News considered firing someone?

If Glenn Beck actually directly called for the assassination of someone, would it bother you guys? If Rush Limbaugh just screamed a racial insult referring to the President of the United States into his microphone, would it make you pause at all? If Lou Dobbs went so far as to call for the murder of random Hispanics in the street, would CNN consider firing him? If Michael Savage actually encouraged a caller to his show to go blow up a federal building like Timothy McVeigh did, would any Republicans suggest he pull his rhetoric back a bit?

The Young Turks: Cenk Uygur

This past year, I’ve become a fan of The Young Turks show which I discovered on Youtube.  It is presently my favorite political commentary show.

Cenk Uygur is the host, and I appreciate his view.  I suppose he has something like a liberal/libertarian bent, but he seems fair and honest in his criticisms of politicians of both parties.  More importantly, he isn’t a ranting ideologue.  He states the truth as he sees it and generally does so in a calm voice.  He seems intelligent and insightful… especially compared to much of what I’m used to hearing from mainstream media (but, to be fair, Cenk has been on mainstream shows a few times).

I don’t know too much about Cenk’s biography, but I noticed some interesting details about his life.  He is a former Muslim, a former Republican, and a former lawyer.  Apparently, he had a major life change at some point.

The Media’s Faustian Bargain

Gross Failure of the Media

Imagine if the Today’s Right-Wing Were Around for Nuremberg (Update: AOL Poll)

Why I Changed My Mind On Afghanistan

The Irrefutable Stupidity of Sarah Palin

Interesting Stuff on the Web: 12/4/09

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/34270487/ns/us_news-faith/?GT1=43001/from/ET

Silly Fundies!  This demonstrates something I was considering recently.  American Fundamentalism has become so far estranged from early Christianity that it’s almost an entirely new religion.  Here is a group of Fundies re-writing the Bible because their beliefs don’t match what the Bible says.  Some might think that they should change their beliefs to fit the Bible, but that would require commonsense and objective rational thought.  Another example is the fast growing Mormon Church which simply made up its own new Christian scriptures.

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704007804574573781206641484.html#mod=djempersonal

Here is another example of conservative thinking.  The Best of the Web Today is written by James Taranto.  I’ve noticed how biased is his writing.  He rarely describes some piece of news and instead has to put some political spin on it.

He tries to blame Obama for the problems of Afghanistan and in doing so shifting the blame from Bush who started the war.  Afghanistan is coming close to being the longest war in US history and wars that drag on too long tend to lose public support.  Anyways, his politicized bias seems unfounded.  Just like the issue of public option, most Americans support Obama’s Afghan strategy which is quite impressive considering the quagmire that he inherited.

So, why does Taranto feel it’s necessary to write biased bullshit?  Why can’t he simply report the facts?

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/04/us/04abortion.html?th&emc=th

These activists hounded Dr. Tiller for years.  He was constantly under threat of violence having been shot at twice, the second time being fatal.  Now, these same violent activists have found a new focus of their bigoted hatred.  Some mostly pacifist environmental groups are listed as terrorist groups by the federal government, and so these anti-abortion activists certainly should be listed as terrorists as well.

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/05/opinion/05blow.html?emc=tnt&tntemail1=y

This is the best summary I’ve seen about the race issue in the US right now.

http://voices.washingtonpost.com/44/2009/12/palin-flirts-with-obama-birth.html#more

Even more silliness from the far right fringe.  The commenter labman57 explained it all:

You have to look at the motivations of the majority of the birthers to understand why they simply cannot “let go”. Fundamentally, it comes down to the following mindset: “I cannot accept THAT man in the White House because…. (fill in the blank).”

Just about ANY reason will do — any excuse that will legitimize their race-based outrage. If it wasn’t about a birth certificate, it would be about his middle name. (He’s a closet Muslim, you know.)

In addition, there are a handful of unscrupulous politicians and pundits who, although not necessarily racist themselves, have no problem capitalizing on the bigotry of others by fueling their fear and hatred of Obama in order to score political points or further a personal agenda.

So let’s summarize:

According to Palin, when right wing nut-jobs accuse Obama of being foreign-born, it’s all good.

However, the news media reporting on right wing nut-jobs accusing Obama of being foreign-born is heinous.

Got it.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/12/03/AR2009120302772.html?wpisrc=nl_pmtech

This article gives a nice view into morality and the military.  A program was designed to help demonstrate moral choices and to test naval midshipmen.  The first thing I noticed was that the midshipmen were being given forced choice questions which are rare in normal life.  The way we evaluate situations depends on hundreds and thousands of various factors.  It’s obvious that they want to teach these midshipmen to think about all moral choices in black and white terms.  I suppose that isn’t surprising as that is the level or type of moral development that seems to fit the military mindset. 

The problem is that such teachings won’t prepare these midshipmen for truly complex moral situations.  The test is set up also so they have to make quick choices which also isn’t always the way it is in the real world.  Quick black and white moral choices make thoughtful decisionmaking almost impossible, but that is the point as the military doesn’t want an individual to think for themselves.  So, this “test” doesn’t teach morality but moreso just indoctrinates the person into a particular worldview.

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704107104574569570797550520.html#mod%3Ddjempersonal%26articleTabs%3Darticle

Here is an article from the chairman and CEO of Google.  He explains why Google isn’t the enemy of newspapers.  From my brief perusal of his argument, I think I agree with him.  If newspapers want to survive, they need to innovate.  That is just how the marketplace works.

http://movies.nytimes.com/2009/12/04/movies/04bigriver.html?8mu&emc=mua1

This is a review of a strange documentary.  It doesn’t sound exciting, but some of the commenters highly recommended.  The guy the documentary is about seems like quite the character.

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704107104574571972331174180.html#mod%3DdjemLifeStylet%26articleTabs%3Darticle

This person brings up an interesting thought.  She can think of many fiction writers who she is willing to read anything they write, but she can’t think of any non-fiction writers who she feels the same kind of interest or loyal.

I must admit some of my favorite non-fiction writers are actually primarily fiction writers such as Philip K. Dick and William S. Burroughs.  However, there are a number of non-fiction writers I’d read anything they’ve written such as Carl Jung, Robert Anton Wilson, and Terrence McKenna.  Of course, it’s harder to think of any living non-fiction writers who I would read anything they wrote, but I have read almost everything D.M. Murdock has written and I enjoy reading almost anything by KenWilber.

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/04/opinion/04brooks.html?th&emc=th

I liked the view of Obama presented here. 

Obama is intelligent and rational, evenhanded and fair.  He looks for agreement rather than conflict even if that means compromising on some issues.  It was the heedless self-certainty of Bush that got us into these wars and that led us into economic downturn, and so I consider Obama’s thoughtfulness to be a breath of fresh air.  Sometimes I think he compromises too much as he did by denying the Dalai Lama’s visit to appease the Chinese.  But I think Obama’s steady hand is what the country needs right now, especially considering how the far right pundits are trying to tear everything apart with fear-mongering divisiveness. 

All Obama has to do is keep his equilibrium and stay true to his inherent strengths.  The far right pundits will eventually tire themselves out with all their screaming and ranting and the public will eventually tire of hearing them.