Daily Howler logo
ACCUSATION IN BULK! We liberals make sweeping claims about race. Then, we pretend that we didn’t: // link // print // previous // next //
TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 22, 2009

Alexander joins the band: Andrew Alexander is the Washington Post’s new ombudsman. A wonderful piece of unintentional irony crept into Sunday’s column.

Alexander was wondering why mainstream press organs, like the Post, didn’t cover the Van Jones and ACORN stories more aggressively. Puzzling about that failure, he offered a hoary old idea: As the Church Lady might have asked, Could it be the Post’s liberal bias?

ALEXANDER (9/20/09): One explanation may be that traditional news outlets like The Post simply don't pay sufficient attention to conservative media or viewpoints.

It “can't be discounted,” said Tom Rosenstiel, director of the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism. “Complaints by conservatives are slower to be picked up by non-ideological media because there are not enough conservatives and too many liberals in most newsrooms.”

"They just don't see the resonance of these issues. They don't hear about them as fast [and] they're not naturally watching as much," he added.

Post Executive Editor Marcus Brauchli said he worries “that we are not well-enough informed about conservative issues. It's particularly a problem in a town so dominated by Democrats and the Democratic point of view.”

Why didn’t the Post cover these stories earlier? Alexander devoted the bulk of his column to a famous old theory: It may be the Post’s liberal bias! It may be the dominance of the Democratic point of view!

The unintentional irony appears when we look at Brauchli’s statement. Washington is “dominated by...the Democratic point of view,” he says. In saying that, he is of course giving voice the world’s oldest Republican talking-point! In talking about Democratic dominance, he exhibits Republican rule!

In what way is Washington dominated by the Democratic point of view? Democrats control the Congress and hold the White House, of course. But until recently, Republicans held both distinctions. During that period, did any official at the Post say that Washington was therefore “dominated by the Republican point of view?” That this dominance may explain the Post’s failure to cover important issues? We’d be surprised if such statements can be found.

Too perfect! Brauchli expressed the Republican view when he swore to the force of the Democratic counterpoint. But then, this hoary old notion has played a key role in establishment Washington’s official GroupThink for a very long time now.

Was the Post slow to these stories due to liberal bias? Might we suggest a different theory? The Post was slow to cover these stories because these stories weren’t all that important. To his credit, Alexander at least considered this notion, early in his column:

ALEXANDER: Fox News, joined by right-leaning talk radio and bloggers, often hypes stories to apocalyptic proportions while casting competitors as too liberal or too lazy to report the truth.

But they're also occasionally pumping legitimate stories. I thought that was the case with ACORN and, before it, the Fox-fueled controversy that led to the resignation of White House environmental adviser Van Jones.

Alexander at least understands a key fact: Fox News and “right-leaning” radio often “hype” ridiculous stories. Here at THE HOWLER, we’d describe the problem in stronger terms. But let’s be candid. A guy who describes talkers like Hannity and Limbaugh as “right-leaning” is a guy who’s too scared to speak straight.

Just a guess: Republican dominance put that silly, milquetoast term in this ombudsman’s mouth.

“Right-leaning!” Too funny!

These are all matters of judgment, of course. But whatever a person may think of Van Jones, he simply wasn’t a major White House player. Glenn Beck ran a largely crackpot crusade against Jones, often disinforming millions of viewers in the process. Jones “went to prison and became a communist,” Beck would constantly say. (That clip comes from his August 4 show.) Cracker, please! That’s “apocalyptic” junk. And guess what? When millions of people get disinformed in such ways, that might qualify as news too!

The Post didn’t report that disinformation—the process by which millions of people were told that Obama had an important “czar” who “went to prison” and “became a communist.” But it didn’t occur to Alexander to ask why the Post was silent about that. We’d say there are two likely reasons:

First, Alexander has absorbed a Republican point of view about whose outlook dominates Washington.

Second, there is no countervailing Democratic point of view! There is no narrative which might have made Alexander think twice before he joined a famous old band. For decades now, conservatives have spread the idea that liberal notions dominate Washington.

The notion was silly by the mid-1990s, of course. But when have Democrats spoken?

Special report: Liberals [HEART] race!

PART 2—ACCUSATION IN BULK: Pseudo-liberals love the smell of racism in the morning. We love to attribute the trait to others—promiscuously, by the millions, where possible. After that, we love to pretend that we’ve done no such thing. Gene Robinson deftly performed this move in last Friday’s column, as many others have deftly done in the past few weeks:

ROBINSON (9/18/09): "The president does not believe that criticism comes based on the color of his skin," White House press secretary Robert Gibbs Wednesday. Obama is the most garrulous president in many years, but when a reporter asked him about Carter's remarks, he had not a word to say.

Nor do many other leading Democrats— outside of the Congressional Black Caucus—want to touch this explosive subject. As a matter of political strategy, I don't blame them. The minute you observe that some of Obama's critics seem to be motivated by race, the critics howl that they're all being smeared as “racists” simply because they disagree with Obama's policies. This is not true.

Cracker, please! Of course we liberals have been suggesting that anyone who disagrees with Obama is doing so for racial reasons. In comment sections, unschooled liberals come out and say it. Skilled professionals, like Jonathan Alter, play the game like this:

MADDOW (9/15/09): The implication being, from President Carter, you know— Sure, presidents all face opposition. A lot of them face unhinged opposition. But for President Obama, it’s different because of race. What did you think about that comment and what the reaction to it will be?

ALTER: Well, I think he’s right. Not in every case. It’s very important to say that many, maybe most people who oppose President Obama do not do so on the basis of race.

So fair—and so balanced! And so in love with the smell of racism! It’s isn’t true “in every case,” Massah Jonathan grandly said. Indeed: “Maybe most” of Obama’s critics aren’t racists, Ole Massah has grandly allowed. (Maybe!) But please! When someone makes such a sweeping statement, yes—all critics are of course being tainted. And this is what President Carter had said. Maddow had just played the clip:

CARTER (9/14/09): I think an overwhelming portion of the intensely demonstrated animosity towards President Barack Obama is based on the fact that he is a black man, that he’s African-American. And I think it’s bubbled up to the surface because of the belief among many white people—not just in the South but around the country—that African-Americans are not qualified to lead this great country. It’s an abominable circumstance and grieves me and concerns me very deeply.

Technically, it all depends on what the meaning of “many” is. In a nation of three hundred million souls, Carter’s statement—about “many” white people—is surely technically accurate. But please. Carter made a vast, sweeping statement—and in the past week or so, every liberal has been talking about the racism of Obama’s critics. And we don’t just focus on people like Limbaugh—powerful individual players who are visibly playing race cards. We love to trash racists in bulk.

Duh. When so many people push this topic—when we make it our central focus—then of course Obama’s critics are being tainted, if you prefer to avoid the word “smeared.” But that’s what we pseudo-liberals are like! We love to make or imply the mass accusation. After that, we love to deny that we ever did any such thing.

Just to recall, this was Democratic strategist Todd Webster’s skillful way of failing to smear Obama’s critics last Thursday:

WEBSTER (9/17/09): Look, there are still crackers in this country. And it’s unfortunate. But it’s what it is—hold on a second! But this is the base of the Republican party. Whether it’s the tea-baggers or the birthers or these other efforts to undermine the legitimacy of Barack Obama as president because he’s a black man.

No attempt to “smear” wide groups of critics there! On Friday, Robinson was appalled to think that someone would take such words the wrong way.

Crackers, please! We liberals are quite promiscuous in our accusations of racism. We love the way the lovely charge feels as it rolls off the tongue. We say we take the subject seriously. If that were true, would we perhaps be a bit more careful in the way we toss such claims around?

Would we perhaps focus on the powerful public people who are clearly playing race cards? Would we perhaps rein in our desire to accuse people by the million?

Indeed, we liberals so love the smell of racism that we at THE HOWLER sometimes wonder if the word still has any meaning. We’re so old that we can recall when racists would turn dogs and hoses on children, then murder their parents that night. Today, our definition has broadened considerably. We toss the term at everything that moves. It seems to bring joy to our lives.

We seem to love the feel of the word. We seem to love its smell in the morning—and on MSNBC, through the night.

Tomorrow—part 3: Liberally defined.

Birbiglia’s spawn: Incomparably, we’re borrowing “Cracker, please!” from Mike Birbiglia, who once served as our lowly doorman (or something). The experience served him quite well. Just click here.