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‘White’ on the Brain — II



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Every now and then someone sends me an incoherent blog posting by someone named Conor Friedersdorf, who attacks a column I’ve written — usually in a way that reveals his inability to follow a simple argument. In the latest case of “‘White’ on the Brain,” he alleges that my piece was aimed at proving a new sort of racism against whites — something improbable, he thinks, given the insignificance (e.g., Mia Farrow) of those who employ boilerplate derogatory terms. But that is clearly not the purpose of the essay, which instead suggested that using racially polarizing epithets and charges was part of a pattern to suggest that Romney was as much a bigot as he was allegedly a de facto felon, a tax evader, and a near-killer of cancer victims — all as part of an overall strategy to paint him as an extremist of the sort with whom an independent voter might not feel comfortable. 

In that regard, Friedersdorf  also sees no real effort on the part of Obama supporters and surrogates to employ racially divisive tropes and language — although, well apart from Mia Farrow, I offered a wide variety of news people (an MSNBC host), politicians (the Senate majority leader and members of the Black Caucus), campaign operatives (a self-described Obama Truth Team state legislator), and some well-known celebrities (Morgan Freeman, James Earl Jones, Chris Rock, Cher), as well as quoted from the president (e.g., “punish our enemies”) and the attorney general (e.g., a nation of “cowards”) — who all have either explicitly evoked race, or who have leveled charges of racism or racial insensitivity against their political opponents (It was, after all, candidate Obama who introduced us to “typical white person” and the clingers of Pennsylvania). The larger point was that despite Obama’s promises of a new civility and unity, just the opposite has happened. 

I filed the final essay with NRO on Monday morning — and added at the last minute yet another example of an MSNBC host ridiculing Paul Ryan as a “wealthy white man.” Almost immediately after the piece came out, Joe Biden — the vice president of the United States — adopted a faux-southern accent in front of a racially-mixed audience in Virginia to claim that the demonic “they”  “are going to put y’all back in chains.” 

This is not Mia Farrow (e.g., Friedersdorf: “The notion that stigmatizing Romney voters as white supremacists is a savvy way to win independents may constitute the worst political analysis on offer this decade. On the other hand, I haven’t checked up on Mia Farrow statements or any other celebrity mutterings to divine the thrust of the Barack Obama reelection effort, so what do I know”), but the second-highest ranking public servant in the country, and one who earned no rebuke from the president — although a number of liberals found Biden’s inflammatory charge that his political opponents wished to return to the spirit of putting people in chains uncouth. 

Yesterday yet another MSNBC commentator accused Romney of engaging in the “niggerization” of Obama, for suggesting that Obama’s campaign ads and methods revealed far more anger than analysis. From now on, we should expect a news person, politician (Biden himself has nearly three more months to go), or celebrity to weigh in with something like all of the above about every week until the election — until either voters tire of the demagoguery, or the slurs successfully cast Mitt Romney as a bigot outside the mainstream. 

So when Friedersdorf writes, “So what do I know?” Answer — almost nothing at all.



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