"Maybe Obama was wise to hang back. While anger can simmer forever, overheated outrage is exhausting and ultimately counterproductive."
"Maybe Obama was wise to hang back. While anger can simmer forever, overheated outrage is exhausting and ultimately counterproductive."
Glenn Beck was just on the cover of TIME magazine.1 Instead of telling the truth about Beck--that he repeatedly race-baits, lies and distorts the truth--TIME raises the question of whether Beck represents a legitimate voice in American politics.2
It's absurd, and it's not just TIME. In article after article, reporters seem afraid to call out what Beck is actually doing, and they often neglect to mention the very real backlash against Beck, including the fact that more than 62 companies have stopped advertising on his show.
You can help. In just a few minutes you can write and submit a letter-to-the-editor to papers in your area and help the media tell the whole story. We've got a tool that makes it very easy and gives you tips for writing your letter. Just click here to get started:
Glenn Beck is getting a great deal of attention from the media at the moment. While many journalists mention some of the things he said, they usually stop themselves from calling out what he's doing. Several articles about Beck have portrayed him as merely reflecting his audience, when the reality is that he actively stokes the fires of racial paranoia with his rhetoric and repeatedly makes claims that simply aren't true.
Beck's public image is being shaped and defined right now. Our goal is to make sure it's defined properly and that he becomes a liability for anyone who chooses to support or benefit from what he's doing, including FOX and Republican politicians.
Together, we can make sure that Beck's actions define the public conversation about him. In just a few minutes you can compose a letter to the editors of your area newspapers using our special tool, provided courtesy of our friends at FireDogLake Action. We'll provide you with talking points, and you'll be able to easily compose a letter that you can send to your local and regional newspapers. You can compose your letter here:
Thanks and Peace,
-- James, Gabriel, William, Dani and the rest of the ColorOfChange.org team
September 23rd, 2009
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1. "Mad Man: Is Glenn Beck bad for America?" Time, 9-17-2009
2. "The Glenn Beck Moment," The New York Times, 9-22-2009
Friday 18 September 2009
Washington - In the pre-dawn hours of last Nov. 5, while much of the nation celebrated Barack Obama's election as the nation's first black president, three white men in Springfield, Mass., doused the partially completed Macedonia Church of God in Christ with gasoline and burned it to the ground.
After their arrest, the men told police they'd torched the black church because they were angry about Obama's election and feared minorities would be given more rights.
At about the same time, newspaper Web sites were filled with millions of hateful messages about Obama, and the computer servers of two large white supremacist groups, the Council of Conservative Citizens and Stormfront.org, crashed because they got so much traffic.
Also see below:
Johnathan L. Walton | Fear of a Black President •
"You immediately got the sense that something significant was happening," said Mark Potok, who investigates hate groups as the director of the Intelligence Project of the Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, Ala.
Potok's instincts were correct. Obama's victory had stirred immediate racial anger among a small portion of Americans.
That visceral backlash quickly subsided, but as the grip of the worst recession since the 1930s began to tighten, a different type of anger began to surface. Only this time, the hostility wasn't limited to society's fringe elements. It was everywhere.
The collapse of the housing market, the government bailout of Wall Street, record job losses, long-term unemployment, trillion-dollar deficits, shrinking retirement funds, growing government intervention, foreign economic competition and America's changing demographic landscape left many Americans angry at the direction of the country, confused about the source of their problems and fearful about the future.
In this summer of discontent, much of that outrage, rightly or wrongly, has been trained on President Obama. While it's an occupational hazard that comes with the turf at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., some of the criticism of Obama has the unmistakable stench of racism.
For example, a recent poster making the rounds shows Obama outfitted in full African witch doctor gear, complete with headdress, above the words "OBAMACARE coming to a clinic near you."
"I certainly detect a racial element in some of the hostility directed at President Obama," said Richard Alba, the distinguished professor of sociology at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. "I'm certain there are white Americans for whom having a dark-skinned president in the White House is an enormous shock. This is really a complete overturning of what they thought was the natural order of things. The natural way that American society worked. It upsets all their ideas about how American society is structured."
Potok agreed. "Anyone who's looked at some of the signs at the various 'tea parties' knows perfectly well that race is a significant part of this backlash," he said. " . . . I'm not suggesting that every person angry about health care or immigration is a Klansman in disguise, but at the back of this white-hot rage that we've been seeing are people who are genuinely furious about the way the country is changing and changing racially."
No one symbolizes the changing face of America more than Obama does. "I think hundreds of thousands of whites are taking these very real changes and attributing them to the race of the president," Potok said.
Pollster Cliff Young of Ipsos said his research suggested that the national anger, which, at least publicly, has been overwhelmingly centered among whites, was about more than just race. He said a "generalized fear of the unknown" was creating the tension.
Alba agreed, and said that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton probably would face similar hostility as president because she was a woman, which would be another culture shock for many people.
"There's this tectonic shift going on in the United States, both economically and demographically," Young said, noting that in 2042 non-Hispanic whites are projected to become a racial minority. "And certain segments of the population are feeling left out. Is what we're seeing directly a function of Obama's race? I think not, actually. He's just an indicator of something 'different.' Of an America that's not the same as what's idealized by certain segments of the population."
Because racism is so personal and subjective, it's difficult to quantify and doesn't show up neatly in surveys and polling data. Much like pornography, racism is difficult to define, but most people think they know it when they see it or hear it. The problem is that everyone sees it differently based on experiences, biases and personal beliefs.
Former President Jimmy Carter, however, reopened Pandora's box this week by asserting that racism was a major factor behind the hostility that Obama has faced. Carter gave a respected, white and Southern voice to concerns that many had dismissed as the baseless whining of overprotective blacks.
In doing so, the former Georgia peanut farmer helped set off another round in America's 390-year-old debate about politics and race that many would prefer to avoid.
In his new book, "In the President's Secret Service," author Ron Kessler writes that racists and white supremacists probably account for more than a third of the estimated 30 death threats that Obama allegedly receives every day, about four times as many as were directed at former President George W. Bush. The Secret Service wouldn't confirm Kessler's claim.
Unlike Potok, however, Kessler said the citizen outrage expressed at town hall meetings and tax protest events known as "tea parties" didn't reflect racist sentiment. He disagrees with Carter's assessment.
"I think it's reprehensible for (Carter) to attribute racial motives to people who simply disagree with Barack Obama's policies," Kessler said. "Quite a few of the threats are racially motivated, which doesn't necessarily mean 'right wing.' It means they're racists. It means they're white supremacists. They're jackasses, but it doesn't necessarily mean they're politically tuned in to any particular philosophy. I don't know how they vote, but they're not necessarily involved in any political movement."
One of the first reactions to Carter's statement came from Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele, who accused Carter of playing the "race card."
Many, however, think that the Republican Party and its supporters, particularly media personalities such as Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck, have used race most frequently and in the most inflammatory manner to frame their opposition to and displeasure with the president.
"I don't think anybody has used the symbols of race and racism to criticize this president more than the individuals on the right," said D'Linell Finley, a political science professor at Auburn University at Montgomery. "Listen to the radio, look at the signs and listen to their individual words. It comes through both in a subtle and not-so-subtle manner."
The not-so-subtle incidents are numerous:
- Last October, John McCain's campaign ousted a Buchanan County, Va., McCain campaign official, Bobby May, for writing a newspaper column that said that if Obama were elected he'd hire rapper Ludacris to paint the White House black and change the national anthem to the "Negro National Anthem" by James Weldon Johnson.
- Diane Fedele, who was then the president of a Republican women's club in San Bernardino County, Calif., resigned last October after she sent out a newsletter with a drawing of Obama on a bogus food-stamp coupon surrounded by ribs, watermelon and fried chicken.
- In May, Sherri Goforth, an aide to Republican state Sen. Diane Black of Tennessee, sent an e-mail to Republican staffers showing the first 43 U.S. presidents in stately poses, but Obama's image, as the 44th president, was a pair of bright white cartoonish eyes on a black background.
- In June, Diann Jones, the vice chairman of the Collin County Republican Party in Texas sent an e-mail to local Republican clubs calling a proposal for a $50 gun tax "another terrific idea from the black house and its minions."
- Also in June, South Carolina Republican activist Rusty DePass compared an escaped gorilla from a Columbia zoo to first lady Michelle Obama's ancestors.
- At an August political forum, Republican U.S. Rep. Lynn Jenkins of Kansas denied any racial intent when she said that the party was looking for a "great white hope" to lead the party into the future.
David Bositis, a senior research associate at the Joint Center for Political Studies, a public-policy research institute, said: "You have a whole bunch of incidents of that sort, and they're accelerating in their occurrences."
To many, South Carolina Republican U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson's "You lie" outburst was only the latest racially tinged episode involving the party. Bositis said that much of the antagonism came from the Southern wing of the party, in part because Obama was the first Northern Democratic president since Kennedy and because the Republican Party's Southern clout had been marginalized.
"It has been a long time since they've had such a limited influence in the U.S. Congress," Bositis said. "A number of these people have gone out of their way to diss Obama, and that's a Southern thing, it's not a black thing. But what is it about Obama that they most want to diss? A lot of it has to do with his race."
Friday 18 September 2009
...in Obama's America the white kids now get beat up with the black kids cheering, "Yay, right on, right on, right on, right on," and, of course, everybody says the white kid deserved it, he was born a racist, he's white. Newsweek magazine told us this. We know that white students are destroying civility on buses, white students destroying civility in classrooms all over America, white congressmen destroying civility in the House of Representatives. - Rush Limbaugh, Sept. 15, 2009
Ever the statesman, and often candid to a political fault, President Jimmy Carter asserted this week that much of the animosity directed toward President Barack Obama is "based on the fact that he is a black man."
A lifelong southerner, Carter acknowledged that the inclination of racism still exists and that "it has 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."
Though courageous, the former president's pronouncement will surely be considered controversial to many Republicans and Democrats alike. Some will view Carter's comments as politically inexpedient. The topic of race in general, and charges of racism in particular, is political dynamite that typically explodes in the hands of the accuser-just ask Professor Skip Gates, Governor David Patterson or President Barack Obama (the latter of whom I will return to momentarily).To continue reading about the place of race in the realm of politics, click here.
Published by Truthout, Friday 18 September 2009
President John F. Kennedy in Dallas. (Photo wikimedia commons)
That being John F. Kennedy, who was gunned down in Dallas, of course.
I've been thinking a lot of Kennedy and Dallas as I've watched the increasingly violent rhetorical attacks on Obama be unfurled. As Americans yank their kids of class in order to save them from being exposed to the President of the United States who only wanted to urge them to excel in the classroom. And as unvarnished hate and name-calling passed for health care 'debate' this summer.
The radical right, aided by a GOP Noise Machine that positively dwarfs what existed in 1963, has turned demonizing Obama--making him into a vile object of disgust--into a crusade. It's a demented national jihad, the likes of which this country has not seen in modern times.
But I've been thinking about Dallas in 1963 because I've been recalling the history and how that city stood as an outpost for the radical right, which never tried to hide its contempt for the New England Democrat.
Now, in this this month's Vanity Fair, Sam Kashner offers up in rich detail the hatred that ran wild in Dallas in 1963. To me, the similarity between Dallas in 1963 and today's unhinged Obama hate is downright chilling.
Kashner's fascinating cover story actually chronicles the professional struggles of writer William Manchester who was tapped by the Kennedy family, after the president's assassination, to write the definitive book about the shooting. The Vanity Fair articles details the power struggles, and epic lawsuits, that ensued prior to Manchester's publication.
But this unnerving passage from VF caught my eye. In it, Kashner retraces Manchester's step as he researched his book. It's unsettling because if you insert "Obama" for every "Kennedy" reference, it reads like 2009:
Manchester also discovered that Dallas "had become the Mecca for medicine-show evangelists … the Minutemen, the John Birch and Patrick Henry Societies, and the headquarters of [ultra-conservative oil billionaire] H. L. Hunt and his activities."
"In that third year of the Kennedy presidency," Manchester wrote, "a kind of fever lay over Dallas country. Mad things happened. Huge billboards screamed, ‘Impeach Earl Warren.’ Jewish stores were smeared with crude swastikas.…Radical Right polemics were distributed in public schools; Kennedy’s name was booed in classrooms; corporate junior executives were required to attend radical seminars."
A retired major general ran the American flag upside down, deriding it as "the Democrat flag." A wanted poster with J.F.K.’s face on it was circulated, announcing "this man is Wanted" for—among other things—"turning the sovereignty of the US over to the Communist controlled United Nations" and appointing "anti-Christians … aliens and known Communists" to federal offices.
And a full-page advertisement had appeared the day of the assassination in The Dallas Morning News accusing Kennedy of making a secret deal with the Communist Party; when it was shown to the president, he was appalled. He turned to Jacqueline, who was visibly upset, and said, "Oh, you know, we’re heading into nut country today."
Manchester discovered that in a wealthy Dallas suburb, when told that President Kennedy had been murdered in their city, the students in a fourth-grade class burst into applause.
Today, conservatives are expressing outrage that Rep. Nancy Pelosi had the nerve to raise concerns about the onrush of violent political rhetoric. The Noise Machine claims it has no idea what Pelosi's talking about. But the truth is, America's most famous bouts of political violence (i.e. JFK, Oklahoma City, etc.) have always been accompanied by waves of radical, right-wing rhetoric. Given that history, the GOP's insistence that the hate now filling the streets couldn't possibly inspire violence seems woefully naive.
original link: http://www.truthout.org/091909C
Tuesday 15 September 2009
by: William Rivers Pitt, t r u t h o u t | Columnist
How many white, middle-aged, overweight, pissed-off right-wingers does it take to unscrew a light bulb?
Depends on who you ask.
Organizers for this past weekend's anti-Obama protest in Washington, DC, were slinging around crowd-size estimates of two million people before the curtain was thankfully drawn on the thing, despite the fact that the number was actually in the vicinity of 30,000. They were in the nation's capitol, so they said, to protest against too much governmental control over the lives of Americans, to protest taxation in general, to screech about birth certificates, to denounce President Obama and to see and be seen amid a throng of fat, white people who look just like them.
Call it a group hug for the demonstrably deranged. But there was more to it than just standard-issue anti-Obama sentiments being aired in the streets. Layered beneath the whole scene was a hard vein of bitter racism the participants didn't even try to hide.
"Packs of taxpayer marchers shuffled down Pennsylvania Avenue proudly waving signs," wrote author and political analyst Earl Ofari Hutchinson. "'The Long Legged Mack Daddy,' 'Where's the Birth Certificate,' 'Mississippi Freedom Riders,' 'Whoa Boys Take it from Here' (Obama waving to black and Islamic militants). Many defiantly waved Confederate flags and the Texas state flag (separatist movement emblem). Meanwhile, South Carolina senator Jim DeMint, Congresspersons Mike Pence, Phil Gingrey and Marsha Blackburn, and organizer mouthpiece scandal-plagued former House majority leader Dick Armey profusely swore that the march had nothing to do with race, politics, or even President Obama. The racist flags, symbols and signs, though, gave big lie to their profuse denials. Racism was on full and ugly display on the Capitol Mall. No attempt was made to mask it. Some protesters seemed quite proud to openly send a message about race and Obama."
The Agonist blog provided the following sharp analysis of the overall meaning behind the DC protest this weekend: "These teabag parties represent the newly disenfranchised white, rural voter - the backbone of the Republican Party and its southern strategy. The outburst this week by Rep. Joe Wilson, the obscure South Carolina Congressman who called President Obama a liar during his speech to a joint session of Congress, was prompted by Obama's statement that nothing in the healthcare reform package he is proposing would provide care for illegal immigrants. The fear of immigrants is a primal constant in American politics, but since the adoption of the southern strategy, this fear is at its core a racial concern. Immigration in the past 30 years is no longer about poor white people coming from Europe, it's about brown people coming from Mexico. Now that an African-American is president, protests against illegal immigrants can be a respectable way for people to say what is really on their mind - they cannot accept a black person as president."
Amusing aside regarding Representative Wilson and his rude outburst: "In 2003, Wilson voted to provide federal funds for illegal immigrants' health care. The vote came on the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement and Modernization Act of 2003, which contained Sec. 1011 authorizing $250,000 annually between 2003 and 2008 for government reimbursements to hospitals who provide treatment for uninsured illegal immigrants. The program has been extended through 2009 and there is currently a bipartisan bill in Congress to make it permanent."
Well, nobody said you have to be smart in order to become a hero to the far right. In fact, it helps to be dumber than a sack of hair, if only to match wits with the kind of people who were marching this weekend holding signs that read "Bury Obamacare With Kennedy." Stay classy, GOP.
To be fair, not everyone in the Republican Party was thrilled with the nauseating display of hatred and unabashed racism in DC this weekend. Several of the GOP's leading lights have raised deep concerns about the party being overtaken by these insane idiots. "Such insiders point to theories running rampant on the Internet," reported The Los Angeles Times on Monday, "such as the idea that Barack Obama was born in Kenya and is thus ineligible to be president, or that he is a communist, or that his allies want to set up Nazi-like detention camps for political opponents. Those theories, the insiders say, have stoked the GOP base and have created a "purist" climate in which a figure such as Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.) is lionized for his 'You lie!' outburst last week when Obama addressed Congress. They are 'wild accusations and the paranoid delusions coming from the fever swamps,' said David Frum, a conservative author and speechwriter for President George W. Bush who is among the more vocal critics of the party base and of the conservative talk show hosts helping to fan the unrest. 'Like all conservatives, I am concerned about this administration's accumulation of economic power,' Frum said. 'Still, you have to be aware that there's a line where legitimate concerns begin to collapse into paranoid fantasy.'"
Frum was being nice, actually, because he knows better than anyone what took place in Washington this weekend. It was a Klan rally minus the bedsheets and torches. These people don't even have enough shame to hide their faces anymore. If more Republicans like Frum don't come forward to denounce such activities from their right flank, that right flank is going to finish the job of taking over the GOP, and hard as it is to believe, this kind of obnoxious craziness is going to seem quaint by comparison to what will be coming next.
William Rivers Pitt is a New York Times and internationally bestselling author of two books: "War on Iraq: What Team Bush Doesn't Want You to Know" and "The Greatest Sedition Is Silence." His newest book, "House of Ill Repute: Reflections on War, Lies, and America's Ravaged Reputation," is now available from PoliPointPress.