Thursday, June 21, 2012

So Much MoreThan Racism

I understand or, in the phrase popularized by supporters of Anita Hill, "get it."    If I were black, I'd be particularly sensitive to racism, or borderline racism, or rhetoric or behavior that appears possibly to be race-based.

So maybe I should give a pass to Marc Lamont Hill, who was asked (video below) by Joy Behar, substituting this week for Current TV host Elliot Spitzer, "but do you think the guy in the Rose Garden was being racist?"  

Hill responded

I don't necessarily think he knew that he's racist... instead, he just doesn't think this President is worthy of dignity and respect in a way that the other 43 presidents were. The problem when I point to him as racist or the guy who says 'you lie' as racist, they say 'oh, you're being too sensitive, you're playing the race card.   And again, that'w why this woman is so important because she shows what that sentiment looks like when it's fully developed and mature.

Seated next to Hill, comedian and talk-show host Sam Seder had been asked by Behar "Do you think that this is part of the continuum of these sorts of attacks against President Obama- the rude remarks in the Rose Garden the other day, the 'you lie,' is this part of a trend against this President?   Seder, who is white, answered

It's called racism.   I mean that's the trend.   You have a black president, and there's a lot of racists, and when they start getting angry about him, they don't talk about his policy, they talk about his race.

They were considering several recent episodes.     (Behar, incidentally, was up to the challenge, telling Seder "I just want to clear up your thinking.")    Among them was the remark by Arizona talk radio host Barbara Espinoza, who twice said of President Obama "I call him a monkey." (She then was rebuked by the conservative host appearing with her.)   Last week, Daily Caller reporter Neil Munro interrupted President Obama's press conference on immigration, as far as can be deciphered, five times in an attempt to get out a loaded question.    Finally, it appears, he "asked" "What about American workers who are unemployed while you employ foreigners?"

Munro's question/comment was borderline nativist, given the reference to "foreigners."    "Illegal immigrants"or "children of illegal immigrants" would have been more clearly accurate. There was, however, no reference, direct or indirect, to Barack Obama's race, ethnicity, background, or anything of that sort.   Nothing.

Repub Representative Joe Wilson (certainly not this Joe Wilson) of South Carolina, you will recall, shouted rudely shouted "you lie!" during the President's 2010 State of the Union address in response to a claim (coincidentally pertaining to benefits for illegal immigrants) made by Obama on behalf of health care reform.    "You lie" and nothing else- no reference to Kenya, Islam, the n-word.    Nothing.

For Michael Arcenaux of The Grio, it was the outhouse despicably displayed outside of the annual conference of the Montana Republican Party, held in Billings.     Arcenaux remarked

I don’t think a stupid story like this will ruin Romney. However, this public display of prejudice is just one of several instances that have hit the news cycle in mere weeks. There is also that big-mouth birther, Donald Trump, who recycled yesteryear’s conspiracy theory — which I’m sure alienated voters long tired of such an asinine critique of the president. Likewise, the reported proposalcalling on Chicago billionaire Joe Ricketts to spend $10 million on a negative ad campaign aimed at Obama centered on Rev. Jeremiah Wright.

But race and racism and, as Arrcenaux puts it, generally "talking disrespectfully about his wife, cabinet members, and fellow Democratic leaders"  are but one small- and relatively insignificant- part of the Republican story of the past three-and-a-half years.  

The other claims about President Obama generally are pushed aside, less explosive and less sexy.      The mainstream media lumps them together as "policy" differences and fails to expose them as even further removed from reality than the claim that Barack Obama was born outside of the U.S.A.

Yes, more ridiculous.     Charges that the President is a socialist or trying to destroy the country, as periodically claimed by GOP pundits, deserve far more scrutiny and criticism than they receive.      Another claim- rooted as so much of this is in conservative philosophy of victimology- was highlighted Wednesday by Rachel Maddow, who (video way below) explained

But here is the story. In March 2010, which is a little over a year after President Obama took office, right, Congress passed health reform. There were months of not knowing if it was really going to happen, right down to the very last few days, it`s still not sure if it was definitely going to happen.

But finally, it was the third week in March of 2010 when it was clear that Congress had finally figured out how to pass health reform. And on the Friday morning of that third week in March, when it became clear it was going to pass, a militia guy in Alabama freaked out about health reform on his blog and he demanded conservatives opposed to health reform should take to violence, to stop Congress from what it was doing.

He wrote on his blog, and I quote, `If you wish to send a message that Pelosi and her party cannot fail to hear, break their windows. Break them now. Break them and run to break again. Break them under cover of night.

Break them in broad daylight, break them and await arrest in willful, principled civil disobedience. Break them with rocks, with sling shots, break them with baseball bats, but break them.

The time has come to take your life, your liberty and that of your children and grandchildren into your own two hands and act. It`s after all, more humane than shooting them in self defense.

And if we do a proper job, if we break the windows of hundreds, thousands of Democrat party headquarters across the country, we might just wake up enough of them to make defending ourselves at the muzzle of a rifle unnecessary. Break their windows. Break them now."

That was Friday morning, March 19th, 2010. Sometime later on in that day, indeed, a large brick was thrown through a window at Democratic Congresswoman Louise Slaughter`s district office in Niagara Falls, New York. The window had to be -- as you can see there -- had to be boarded up completely.

That same night, Friday night or possibly early Saturday morning, another brick was thrown through a window at the Sedgwick County Democratic Party office in Wichita, Kansas. That brick was reported to have anti- Obama and anti-health care reform messages written on it.

Then, a day later, oh, look, there`s more. On Saturday night or maybe early Sunday, another brick shattered glass doors at the Democratic Party headquarters in Rochester, New York. I think we have a picture of the brick, right?

Shortly after the health reform vote took place on Sunday, another one, this time a fist-sized rock reportedly thrown through the front window of the Hamilton County Democratic Party in Pleasant Ridge, Ohio.

Then at 2:40 in the morning, so late Sunday night/early Monday morning, a few hours after the health reform bill, the front door and glass panels were smashed out at Democratic Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords` office in Tucson, Arizona.

That was all March 2010, right when health reform was passing. Of course, as an aside, Gabrielle Giffords within a year went on to barely survive an assassination attempt in her home district in Arizona. After she resigned to work on her recovery earlier this year, her former staffer Ron Barber was actually sworn in just this week in the House to replace her.

But in terms of the timing here, today, of course, is possibly also the eve of the Supreme Court decision on health reform. Decision on whether or not the conservative majority on the Supreme Court is going to find health reform somehow unconstitutional. That ruling had been expected as early as this Monday, this past Monday this week. The next possible date on which they might issue the ruling is tomorrow morning. So, it might happen tomorrow.

The thing about that timeframe there between health reform passing and now this expected ruling from the Supreme Court, since health reform was passed, all right, now that we`re possibly on the eve of the Supreme Court ruling on its future, whatever happened to the "break their windows" militia guy?

Despite some noises that he might be pursued by law enforcement, since he was very proud and unapologetic about having tried to incite that violence around the country, the "break their windows" militia/blogger guy told "The Washington Post" that he had not been questioned by any law enforcement agencies after the rash of Democratic attacks -- attacks on Democratic offices he called for.

He called for them, he claimed credit for them. After it was done actually, he continued to threaten more.


MIKE VANDERBOEGH: There are rifles being cleaned right now. Do you folks understand that?

HOST: Being what? Claimed from where?
VANDERBOEGH: There are rifles being taken out of the closet and cleaned.

Being the break their windows, cleaning our rifles, incitement to violence guy from the health reform fight, did bring this blogger guy some measure of fame on the fringe. He kept threatening civil war and armed sedition on right wing talk radio. He was booked as a speaker at an open carry rally -- an openly carry your firearms rally that was timed to coincide with the anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing. That was classy timing.

But since then, this blogger guy, the break your windows guy, incidentally his name is Mike Vanderboegh, since then he has moved on to a new thing. He has moved on to promulgating a new conspiracy theory about President Obama taking away your guns.

And so it has come to pass that your uncle who watches FOX News all day is worked up about something today. And so it has come to pass that in the span of 27 months since he told everyone to go break everyone`s windows in Democratic Party headquarters since health reform passed, in the stage of 27 months, the "break their windows", militia/blogger guy has now become the man who has led Republicans in the United States Congress to vote the attorney general of the United States in contempt of Congress today. It`s him.

This armed resistance, break their windows, break them now guy, is where the whole Fast and Furious thing came from. If you don`t know anything about the Fast and Furious thing, you are forgiven. But if you have heard about it from your uncle or because you happen to be visiting tonight from FOX -- hello, I hope you will forgive me while I explain that Fast and Furious refers to a law enforcement strategy that started during the George W. Bush administration. It was a program to let some sketchy gun sales go through in the hopes that following those guns after they were sold could lead the ATF to Mexican drug kingpins that they could arrest.

Now, whatever you think of that style of law enforcement program and that George W. Bush administration starting it and the Obama administration continuing it, to this militia blogger guy, to the "break their windows, break them now" guy, this got re-imagined as a conspiracy to eliminate the Second Amendment, to take away your guns by selling them to people on the border.

If it doesn`t sound like it makes sense, it`s because it doesn`t make sense. To the fevered mind of a full time conspiracy theorist who sees himself oz part of an armed American resistance movement, that is what he made up. And, boy, has he gone places with it.

This is the way he would explain it on his blog. He called it the Gun Walker Program. Obama`s gun walker was a deliberate conspiracy versus the Second Amendment.

The gun confiscationists had danced in the blood of every mass shooting and gotten nowhere to their chagrin and frustration. What was needed was a game changer, something that fit the meme of "we`ve got to tighten up on gun owners, gun stores, and gun shows because they`re feeding the slaughter.

Mexico was perfect. If there weren`t enough semiautomatic assault rifles in Mexico, the ATF could fix that. And the murders could flo0ow, justifying the policy change of cracking down on assault rifles, gun shows and the like."

This is crazy, right? I mean, the theory here is the Obama administration sold too many guns in order to create gun violence, in order to cause revulsion in the American people about the horrible thing those guns are doing in order to make people feel more positive about gun control, so then they could get away with taking everyone`s guns away secretly, some day, after they stop selling the extra guns to get there. They`re being super lax in gun control as a conspiracy in order to be super tough on gun control.

What? Yes, what? This is a theory. This is a theory cooked up by the break their windows guy. And this is the Republicans Fast and Furious thing that led to today`s political news.

This guy, Vanderboegh, became the FOX News Channel authority on the subject of the Fast and Furious investigation. Here he is being interviewed on FOX News about Fast and Furious. Look at him identifying himself as an online journalist.

Remember, this is the break their windows, break them now guy. Mr. Vanderboegh expounded his conspiracy theory on FOX News. He said it directly to Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama. He said it to Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa.

These guys apparently listened to it, and believed it, and Republicans in Congress have been running with it.


SEN. CHUCK GRASSLEY (R), IOWA: My suspicion is that they don`t like the Second Amendment the way it is, and they want to do everything they can to hurt guns and restrict guns, and so, they could have been building a case for that, but I can`t prove that.
REP. TIM WALBERG (R), MICHIGAN: Frankly, I believe it was set up to deal with Second Amendment liberties of law-abiding citizens and pushing into a perception that it was the problem of the Second Amendment as opposed to law enforcement.
REP. DARRELL ISSA (R), CALIFORNIA: Very clearly, they made a crisis and they`re using this crisis to somehow take away or limit people`s Second Amendment rights.


MADDOW: To somehow -- somehow being the key term there, right?

The idea is by selling guns, the Obama administration is going to block people from selling guns, right? It`s obvious.

Take the blinders off, America. They`re being super lax on gun control for gun control.

See, if you were a person who watched FOX News all day, it is possible you have been marinating in this conspiracy theory for long enough now that this seems feasible. And so, therefore, today`s vote to hold the attorney general under contempt over this scandal is somehow understandable to you.

Maddow is loyal (except as compared to Matthews, Schultz, O'Donnell, and a bunch of MSNBC contributors) to the President, and therefore won't explain to you further why the charge that Obama is coming after your guns is bizarre.    At the memorial service for the victims of the shooting outside the Safeway supermarket in Tucson, Arizona, President Obama made one reference to gun control- and that not even about gun control but about (so as not to offend gun rights activists) "gun safety."     And that, fellow liberals, he contrasted with "talking with each other in a way that heals, not in a way that wounds."    ( He was applauded, at the time and afterward, for his appallingly cowardly speech.)  Fewer people would have been killed had Gerald Lee Loughner not used a weapon with a high-capacity magazine covered by the assault weapons ban Congress later allowed to lapse.   But Obama, the guy who wants to take away everyone's firearms, has had this to say about gun "safety" since the memorial:  

So criticize, ridicule, and hurl charges of racism at some of President Obama's more hate-filled critics.      But if a white, female Democratic President had been elected in 2008, sexism would have abounded among conservative Republicans.   If it were a white male, he probably would have been condemned by some as anti-white, anti-black, or effeminate.   And the more absurd charges still would have had to do with policy, as they have been with this president, notwithstanding our reluctance to acknowledge it.

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