Saturday, October 13, 2012

"Put the White Back in the White House": How Will Conservatives Spin This Photo from Mitt Romney's Rally on Friday?

Once more, conservatives show you who they always have been and are. I couldn't care less about one data point swimming about in a sea of information. But given Romney's naked appeals to white racism, how white supremacists have heard his "dog whistles" loud and clear, Romney and Ryan's repeated assertions that Obama, the country's first black President, does not understand "American" values, and the Right's use of some of the worst and most racist stereotypes about black people in the Age of Obama, this photo which was taken at a Mitt Romney rally on Friday should come as no surprise.

Together, white racism and racial resentment are the brand name of the Tea Party GOP. Consequently, Romey's public knows exactly what they are buying coming November 2012 when they vote against Barack Obama.

Conservatives and the Right-wing echo chamber have a great gift for reframing reality. In the post-truth era, if you think a thing is true, and you believe it to be so (and say it enough) said fiction must be therefore be real. The New Right are also conspiranoids who believe in rigged public opinion polls, white victimology, birtherism, phantom buses full of "illegal" minority voters, and that the most recent unemployment numbers have been manipulated in a grand ploy to defeat Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan. As such, conservatives are capable of believing whatever the echo chamber births from its mania-state of perpetual epistemic closure, and a befouled womb.

They will excuse away and make excuses for the white nationalist who supports the Tea Party GOP, what is the country's de facto White Political Party. Let's get ahead of the curve and use our imaginations to figure out how conservatives will frame the following photo as its circulates throughout the Internet and other media this weekend.

Here a few suggestions:

1. No Republican or conservative can ever be racist! Only the Democrats and liberals see race because they founded the KKK! This man must be an Obama supporter!

2. Agent provocateur! He must be a member of the SEIU and a supporter of Saul Alinsky and a fascist Marxist. Liberals will do anything to make Mitt Romney and the Tea Party look bad.

3. The Romney logo on his t-shirt is a sticker. Just like the Democrats did when they infiltrated the Tea Party rallies a few years ago, the liberals are making their own t-shirts, sending out fake protesters, and doing whatever they can to make us look bad! If he was a real racist the Romney supporters would have kicked him out!

4. Scratch a liberal and you get a racist. He must be a libtard who supports Obama!

5. Okay, let's just use our imaginations and say the guy showed up uninvited to the Romney rally. Why blame all the good conservatives there? Reverse racists, anti-white bigots on TV, black liberal bigots, Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, and the Internet, all hate conservatives. We have black conservatives at all of our rallies.

6. If Republicans hated the blacks why they be so prominently featured by us at our  meetings? We are the party of Abe Lincoln. The liberals are race obsessed and sick and they keep the blacks on the liberal plantation. Dems don't believe in what Dr. King said about being color blind.

7. If Obama and his supporters really cared about racism they would put the New Black Panthers in jail, prosecute Fast and Furious, impeach Eric Holder, and stop the cover-up about the embassy attack in Libya!
What would you add to this list? How would you help the Tea Party GOP spin and excuse-make for the white nationalists and other racists in their midst?

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Forget Boxing, the 2012 Election is More Like Professional Wrestling

The news media and pundits love to use sports analogies when discussing American politics. When describing the 2012 race between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, boxing is their sport of choice.

Obama's supporters have inaccurately described his defeat by Romney in the first debate as a version of a deep game that is modeled on Muhammad Ali's legendary "rope-a-dope" strategy against George Foreman. Romney's backers claimed that he scored a TKO over Barack Obama, leaving the President flat on his back in the ring after the first debate.

In keeping with the boxing metaphor, the second debate in the 2012 presidential campaign features Joe Biden, a wizened, experienced pugilist from the mean streets of Scranton versus a scrappy upstart with much to prove named Paul Ryan.

But what if the analogy is inaccurate?

Boxing is a poor fit for describing the presidential race between these two candidates. Boxing is a sport prefaced on merciless violence. People have been killed in the ring, or left handicapped, brain damaged, and physically broken by a match.

I am not not discounting the substantive differences between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama's approach to governance, public policy, or stewardship of the Common Good. This election represents a clear difference on issues such as reproductive rights, public schools and education, tax policy, and health care reform. I also think that a Romney presidency would border on the disastrous for a country struggling to find its way out of the greatest economic downturn in 80 years.

While the stakes are very high, a choice between Obama and Romney cannot be reduced to a blood sport. Yes, political polarization, the rise of the New Right, and the White populism of the Tea Party do signal an increasing chasm and gulf in our society, that if recent surveys and research are to be believed, has limited our ability to relate to one another and imperiled the ability of the State to respond to issues of common concern.

However, there are great areas of overlap between the Republicans and Democrats which are little discussed. Neither Obama or Romney will engage in a substantive discussion of wealth inequality, the destruction of unions and manufacturing, a flat minimum wage, and the power of economic elites in this country to subvert democracy.

Both will continue a policy of American empire and intervention abroad. Both Romney and Obama have demonstrated a lack of willingness to address the rise of the surveillance state, and the continual erosion of privacy and personal liberty under the guise of "the War on Terror."

And of course, Obama and Romney will not discuss the realities of the color line, the semi-permanence of white racism, and how race and class intersect to limit the life chances of many tens of millions of Americans.

In all, the 2012 election features a centrist Right-leaning Democrat who would have been a Rockefeller Republican in another era running against a flip-flopping, quasi-moderate, near sociopathic Republican who will do anything to win the White House. Regardless of the outcome, the Republic will survive; moreover, a fight over a very narrow area of public policy which does little to challenge Power will continue unabated.

Contemporary American politics is more like professional wrestling than a boxing match.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The Face of Black Nihilism: The NY Times Goes Slumming and Discovers Chicago "Rapper" Chief Keef

Around the same time Chief Keef, who has spent much of this year under house arrest because of gun charges, threatened the older Chicago rapper Lupe Fiasco, who in a fit of reckoning the previous week expressed grievous concerns about the younger rapper’s nihilistic music. Keef threatened on Twitter to “smack him like da lil bitch he is.” Again, after an outcry, he said his account had been hacked. Finally, also last month, Chief Keef was relieved of his Instagram account after posting, also to Twitter, a photo of himself receiving oral sex from a woman.

By any measure, this is raw, difficult-to-consume stuff. That it’s coming from one of hip-hop’s most promising young stars newly signed to a major label makes it unusually scandalous. But what’s most surprising about the situation is that it highlights the vast gap between Chief Keef and the rest of hip-hop, at least its mainstream, popular incarnation.
Chicago based crap rapper and hyper thug race minstrel  Dadaesque minimalist emcee Chief Keef has climbed from the obscurity of the Internet and now has garnered the attention of the country's newspaper of record. The music press, blogs, social media, and various internet sites have been talking about Chief Keef for some time. While his video "I Don't Like" has received at least 17 million views, Chief Keef has also become even more noteworthy for his gang affiliations, violent feud with local Chicago rappers (one of which resulted in the death of a young man named "Lil JoJo"), and how he has been condemned as embodying everything wrong with commercial hip hop and black youth culture by such notable hip hop artists as Lupe Fiasco and Rhymefest.

Ultimately, Chief Keef reminds me of how I didn't leave hip hop. In many ways, hip hop left me. I still love her.

Let's be honest though: we all age out of youth culture.

At present, the commercial rap which is popular now is a product of a reality TV show Facebook culture where mediocrity is prized and talent eschewed. In the culture of illusion, we can all be famous. Sarah Palin with all of her human mediocrity and white trash populism can be a viable candidate for the highest office in the land. The Tea Party GOP, with its penchant for anti-intellectualism, racism, nativism, and conspiranoid fantasies, are a national force in the country's politics. The popularity of Chief Keef is a product of that same cultural low-water mark. As a member of the hip hop generation (and someone who has also written extensively about hip hop and black popular culture) I find this transition tragic and unfortunate, but not at all surprising.

Is the Republican Party a "Neo-Racist" Organization?

I present, as a test case, the issue of whether the Republican Party should be identified as a “neo-racist” entity...I want to test the theory that there is one truth in political discourse that the media has almost entirely failed to recognize or fears to utter, one at the heart of presidential campaign reporting: The Republican Party is an institutionally, structurally racist entity. It’s the veritable elephant in the room of campaign coverage. 
No, I’m not saying all Republicans are racist. I’m saying that as a party, ever since Goldwater and Nixon concocted the benighted, openly racist “Southern Strategy” in the ’60s, the Republican Party has profited from overt and covert racism.
Once more, and as we are fond of saying, racism is not an opinion.While Ron Rosenbaum is a bit off in his suggestion that "the media" has not been discussing Mitt Romney's racial appeals to aggrieved whites in order to defeat the country's first black president (see my pieces here, here, here, and here). He is also to be commended for finally broaching, on a national website of no small amount of prominence, the fact of Mitt Romney's support of his religion's white supremacist doctrines, and the latter's silence on the issue through a good portion of his adult life.

Moving forward, Ron Rosenbaum's essay "Is the Republican Party Racist?" does some great work synthesizing some new research by Thomas Schaller, Nicholas Valentino, and David Sears that explores white racial resentment and its impact on vote choice and issue positions. In this case, empiricism and rigorous social science inquiry offer no comfort for racism deniers (and those others) who want to excuse-make (or ignore) how racism is a driving element for Southern Republican voters:
Eventually the party became somewhat less overt in its public statements but not in its appeal at the voting booth. 
Which means in practice that the GOP starts out every presidential election with (depending on census changes in electoral vote numbers) some 100 electoral votes, more than a third of the way to the 270 electoral votes needed for victory. 
Is it an accident that these 100 votes come from the core states of the Old Confederacy—Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina? 
Looked at another way, as things stand, there would be no presidential "race" at the moment if it weren't for those ex-confederate states—even if they split their votes. Mitt Romney would have little or no chance of winning and might as well quit the race now. Nor would the GOP have much chance of re-taking the Senate or even winning the House again. They would be dead as a political party if not for the legacy of racism. I think that's a fact. Do you think it's "he said/she said"? 
That doesn’t mean that all Southern whites vote GOP only because of race. But when I checked in with the careful historian of Nixon’s Southern Strategy, Rick Perlstein, author ofbooks on the Goldwater and Nixon phenomena, he suggested that recent research has demonstrated that racial attitudes—as opposed to mere conservatism on other policy issues—determine Republican votes in the South... 
At the very least these patterns make Southern voters susceptible to what some observers have called "dog whistle" appeals to racism, such as Mitt Romney's false claim in campaign ads that Obama had "gutted" welfare reform work requirements, reminding many of Reagan-era attacks on "welfare queens" in Cadillacs.
In all, racism pays a psychic wage to those who are White. It can also be financially enriching to those people of color, such as black conservatives, who are overly identified with White authority.

Whiteness is an identity based upon exclusion, and where support of the Common Good across the color line is washed away by racial chauvinism. The story is also a complicated one: white racial animus also does the work--at least in theory--of securing more resources and power for the in-group, even while such benefits are not accrued equally for all white people: this is the cruel realpolitik calculus underlying the Wages of Whiteness.

The contemporary Republican Party has been able to leverage these dynamics. Under the Southern Strategy, and Mitt Romney's masterful mix of overt white racist appeals and "dog whistles," the Tea Party GOP has been able to maintain a strong base of support as the country's de facto White Political Party.

Ultimately, the Confederacy and the demons of Jim and Jane Crow are the lifeblood of the Republican Party's electoral strategy.

Monday, October 8, 2012

The Dreams of the White Right: The Free Republic's Fantasies of Killing "Minority Urban Youths"

In my scenario, the initial riots begin spontaneously across affected urban areas, as SNAP (supplemental nutrition assistance program) and other government welfare recipients learn that their EBT cards no longer function.
This sudden revelation will cause widespread anger, which will quickly lead to the flash-mob looting of local supermarkets and other businesses. The media will initially portray these “food riots” as at least partly justifiable. Sadly, millions of Americans have been made largely, or even entirely, dependent on government wealth transfer payments to put food on their tables...

Most of the mobs will consist of minority urban youths, termed MUYs in the rest of this essay. Which minority doesn’t matter; each urban locale will come with its own unique multi-ethnic dynamic...
 Some locales will divide upon religious or political lines, but they will not be the dominant factors contributing to conflict. In the American context, the divisions will primarily have an ethnic or racial context, largely because that makes it easy to sort out the sides at a safe distance. No need to check religious or political affiliation at a hundred yards when The Other is of a different color.
We Americans are all about doing things the easy way, so, sadly, visible racial and ethnic features will form the predominant lines of division.
I am not a "shook one." It simply ain't in my nature. I am also not a badman (although in my fantasies, I am a bit of a "bad nigger." But then again, who isn't?).

I am also not a fool who ignores obvious threats to my safety and security.

If you are a public figure--even a mid tier blogger or freelance writer--you learn to develop a thick skin. This is especially true if you write about matters such as race and politics. Hate mail is common; it is to be expected. I imagine that as soon as we upright walking apes developed speech that one of us threw a rock at the leader of the tribe in order to show disapproval. In the age of the Internet, cyber racism has become a common means of silencing conversation, and of intimidating people of color (as well as our white allies and other decent folk).

There is a concerted effort by the White Right to threaten and bully those with whom they disagree. The White Right is organized, coordinated, and sophisticated. Because political thought and speech are the antecedents of political action and violence, we ignore the intimate relationship between between hate speech, cyber-racism, and violence at our own peril.

When I decided to start We Are Respectable Negroes, I pledged my allegiance to the truth. This includes empirical truth, moral truth, philosophical truth, and personal truth. As a ghetto nerd and fan of professional wrestling, I made a promise to myself: I would always be real and honest.The public knows when you are lying, obfuscating, or pretending to be something that you are not. One can only maintain a lie for so long when in the public gaze; the performance will inevitably fail and the cheers--and boos--will stop. To "get over" you have to always be yourself with the volume turned just a little bit up.

My recent essay on gun culture, race, and the media has received thousands of hits. Many of those visitors are from the rank afterbirth and cesspool of the Right-wing blogosphere and gun mania village. Apparently, my common sense observations about the relationship between guns and "angry white men" has hit a nerve among some "defenders" of "liberty" and "freedom." As always, imperiled Whiteness shows its essential character as a state of being that is forever imperiled, afraid, and victimized.

Most of the comments have been unintentionally humorous. Some have been bizarre. Others revealed the depths of hate that are increasingly common to conservatives in the Age of Obama. I tend not to give white racists any shine--as not to encourage them like flies on waste--but I also do not believe in denying the obvious.

There is something wrong in America. The sickness is not new. However, a public lulled into the lie of post-racialism, multicultural democracy, and drunk on the neo-liberal stew of colorblindness, are both ill equipped to understand how white supremacy is a changing same, while also being in deep denial about the old school, lynch culture, dominative racism that lingers in the collective subconscious of White America. For many people of color, this description is apt as well.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Chauncey DeVega and Nikki Giovanni are Part of a Vast Black Conspiracy to Take Your Guns Away

I have an alert set in Google that sends me an email whenever my name is mentioned somewhere on these Internets. Little did I know that I was part of a vast conspiracy to take away white people's guns, and also to deny said firearms to poor African-Americans. 

In a dark corner of the gun nut Right-wing blogosphere, I have been elevated to the level of Nikki Giovanni (god, I wish I had 1/100th of her talent or success). I am also apparently an "intellectual" (I wish), a well-funded operative of the Left (I wish I had those duckets), and breathing rarefied air as one of those hateful, elitist, academics (negro please!). 

Despite the foolishness of David Codrea's essay "Black intellectual bigotry endangering poor urban blacks by disparaging guns," there is something useful there. 

It is fascinating when conservatives who live in one of the most heavily armed countries in the world, one that is literally awash with guns, imagine themselves as somehow being under siege. Their mania feeds itself in a vicious cycle--"They" are coming for our guns, we must therefore get more guns to protect our "liberty." When white racial anxiety and hostility towards people of color is introduced into this phantom peril nothing good can come of it. As such, in the Age of Obama we must all be extremely cautious about white domestic terrorism.

Codrea's essay is a prize of overwrought writing, right-wing smart people sounding scary words, and overuse of a thesaurus. Beyond its title, which also demands deconstruction as an object lesson in unstated assumptions and the white racial frame, there are several passages which are especially dense with the Right-wing talking points of the post civil rights era. Consequently, David's effort has done the service of providing a teachable moment.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Historically, Presidential Debates Do Not Impact Vote Choice...But Then Again Obama is the Country's First Black President

In my earlier post on how the "rope-a-dope" analogy is not an apt description for Obama's strategy in last night's defeat by Mitt Romney, I referenced this piece on how presidential debates have historically had little to no impact on how individual's choose to vote on election day.

There are some sections in the Bloomberg piece that deserve a bit more exploration:
"Where you started the debate season is pretty much where you end the debate season," said Christopher Wlezien, a political science professor at Temple University and co-author of the book "The Timeline of Presidential Elections."  
No candidate who was leading in the polls six weeks before the election has lost the popular vote since Thomas Dewey in 1948, according to Wlezien and Robert Erikson, a political science professor at Columbia University. They studied polling data going back to 1952 and computed a running average "poll of polls" for each presidential election...  
Wlezien and Erikson found only one campaign with a big movement in opinion polls from the start to finish of the debate series - and then it was the candidate widely judged to have lost the debates who gained in the polls...  
What influence debates have had on public opinion historically has stemmed from matters of style rather than substance. A glance at a watch or a distant reaction to an emotionally charged question have been more consequential than clashes over war, taxes or economic policy.  
A 2008 Gallup review of polling data surrounding presidential debates concluded the events are "rarely game- changers" yet may have made a difference in 1960 and 2000, both among the closest presidential contests in U.S. history.
Barack Obama is the country's first black president. As such, he is playing a game which is not designed for him. Given that these models of how debates impact voters have been based on white presidents, are they a good fit for assessing the relationship between Obama's debate performance and the vote choice on election day?

Despite what right-wing pundits would have you believe--that being black in America is a net advantage, or that the American people will have "pity" on Obama and give him a do over because of his skin color--serious people suggest that racism cost Obama about 5 percentage points in 2008's election.

Moreover, the politics of white racial resentment and overt racism have been repeatedly used by conservatives to subvert support for the country's first black president, and were the driving force between the white political insurgency known as the Tea Party.

Optics matter: there is a symbolic power to Obama as the country's first African-American Chief Executive that many white folks, especially on the Right, are repulsed by; the stated and unstated burdens of blackness, what Du Bois famously summed up with the question "how does it feel to be a problem?", are the background radiation which colors how many in the public perceive the President. He can't get angry. He can't show emotion. He can't talk about race. And he most certainly cannot remind anyone that he is black.

My instincts would suggest that cultural politics, the white racial frame, and our country's long history of white racism, must in some way be impacting how members of the public assess his performance in the debates. However compelling, instincts are not a substitute for empirical rigor.

Teach me something if you would. 

Sorry, That Was No Rope-a-Dope, Barack Obama Got His Butt Kicked by Mitt Romney

In a fight between an enthusiastic lie and a tepid truth the former will always win. The most noble of us will hold on to the abstract virtues of the truth. Pragmatists will understand that a win is a win regardless of how it is delivered.

The supporters and allies of the President are trying to "spin" a basic and self-evident fact: Barack Obama got his butt kicked by Mitt Romney in their first debate.

In their efforts to salvage victory from the jaws of (obvious) defeat, Obama's people are making claims about the long game. Apparently, Obama is thinking several steps ahead, and Mitt Romney's naked lies will come back to haunt him as the days to election day tick down. They are also making appeals to Political Science: research indicates that presidential debates have little impact on a given voter's choice come election day, so Obama's defeat in the first debate means little.

These are accurate observations. But, my favorite excuse and explanation is that President Obama is playing a game of rope-a-dope like Muhammad Ali; Obama had baited Romney and will close the deal in the debates to come.

When discussing politics, there is a great temptation to use boxing analogies. However, this temptation does not always make the analogy either a good fit or an apt description of reality.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Ann Coulter Needs to Get Malcolm X Out of Her Mouth...But I Doubt She Would Want To

Ann Coulter and the other bloviators on the Right have done caught themselves a case of negro mania. The natives are restless, arming themselves like we are going to have a second Stono Rebellion, and are joining up with the black radicals wearing dashikis, carrying Saturday night specials, who are waiting to waylay innocent whites on the way back from church on Sunday.

The Right's grotesque view of blackness and black humanity occupies both their dreams and nightmares.

Their anti-black mania is a tool which aids them in manipulating the white mouth-breathing classes into working against their own material self-interest. Black genius, competence, intelligence, strength, and beauty terrifies them. In American, conservatism and racism are one in the same; black success calls to attention the twin insecurities of imperiled whiteness and nurtured/protetced white mediocrity which lie at the heart of the Tea Party GOP's white identity politics.

The power of a centrist African American president to magically transform into a black brute who hates whitey is a caricature of Obama--and by implication of black folks as a community--where no matter how gentile, respectable, and "conservative" we may on the surface appear, black Americans are all really anti-white bigots waiting to betray our gracious, colorblind, and loving hosts.

My use of the word "hosts" is intentional: for conservatives and the "real America" crowd, black people really have no place in their civic project as in another life we, the "guests" in the house that race built, should have been deported back to Africa in the 19th century.

In keeping with their fantasy world, for Ann Coulter and the color aroused and deranged Right, blackness is now an advantage in American life, and it is white people who are now victims in the Age of Obama:
Obama is such a fraud. He grew up in Beverly Hills 90210 existence but is just desperate to have this angry black person persona. It's rather like reading about, you know, Hitler's musings on his Germanic identity. You know, he graduated from this fancy, fancy school in Hawaii, voted recently the greenest school in America. And yet when he wants to, he just turns it on and suddenly we got Malcolm X speaking to us...

Yes, and still angry. It's all an act. It's like his 70% of Twitter followers being fake. The whole thing is just smoke and mirrors. And at least for people of our generation, I mean this is a large part of why we have more child molesters than racists in America. It just isn't part of our existence. During our entire lifetimes, the only affect of being black is that you get benefits, doors open for you. You are more likely to get a position in the Harvard Law School.

 Anyone who grew up watching the Brady Bunch -- racism and discrimination, at least discrimination against black people, there is some discrimination against white people -- simply isn't a part of our conceptional apparatus. Which is why it is so strange, of all people, this half-black man born in Hawaii in 1961 walking around like he's Martin Luther King.   
If Ann Coulter met Brother Malcolm I am unsure if she would 1) drop on her knees in joyous supplication, her head in his lap enacting a fantasy of self-hating, reverse racism, private guilt, glee, and then begging him to spend the night; or 2) after performing said acts, she would then call the cops in a well-practiced, centuries old script of imagined black on white rape.

Either way, Ann Coulter is a contemptible human being. That is not a revelation; it simply demands restating. In all, she should get Malcolm X out of her mouth; but given her oral fixations, I doubt she would want to surrender the object of her simultaneous pleasure and disdain.

Barack Obama Dares to Talk to Black People at Hampton University in 2007, Conservatives Go Crazy in 2012

The Right-wing media are up in arms over a "racist" speech given by then candidate Barack Obama at Hampton University, a historically black college, during 2007.

In trying to read through the 2,500 comments on the conservative website The Daily Caller which leaked this "new" story, I have come to a few conclusions.

One, conservatives who believe that Barack Obama hates white people, and that this speech is a smoking gun of sorts which will derail his campaign, have probably not listened to it.

Two, Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity, and other Right-wing bloviators are also apparently shocked and surprised that black folks may speak to one another with one type of inflection and tone, while modifying their speech habits for other audiences. This peek inside the black community's semi-private spaces requires an appreciation for what is called "code switching."

At present, racial resentful and reactionary white conservatives seem incapable of understanding this simple fact: code switching is not an act of lying or dishonesty; it simply is a fact of life for those of us who have to navigate the color line, and are possessed of Du Bois' famous observation about double consciousness, and the "two-ness" that is being both black and American in a society which has constructed citizenship on your back, neck, blood, and stolen labor.

Black Americans love a country that has for most of its history not loved us back; Part of the genius of Black Americans is that we have found a way to be the best of what America can be, while also pushing her forward to fulfill the promise of the democratic creed and the Constitution in order to make the country better for all of its citizens.

Our capacity for adaptability and genius terrifies many in White America--far Right conservatives are most vulnerable to this terror when they realize that black and brown folks know more about liberty and freedom than most white Americans ever will, for they were lazily grandfathered into Whiteness and civic inclusion.

By contrast, liberty and freedom were a condition systematically denied to black folks (and other people of color): not allowed its fruits, we appreciate and know democracy much more deeply than many others in this country.

And ultimately, there are some conservatives, the Fox News, Tea Party Crowd especially, who hate Barack Obama as a human being. These sentiments go deeper than mere partisanship.

I do not use that language casually.

After watching the parade of white racial resentment, overt racism, and "polite" deployment of anti-black bigotry--a variety of racism which is rooted in stereotypes many centuries old about African Americans--by Mitt Romney and other Republicans during this campaign season, the rage at President Obama is beyond that of "normal" politics.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

To What End? Right-wing Fantasies of Black Helicopters, Phantom Buses, Rigged Polls, and Voter Fraud

But the modern right wing, as Daniel Bell has put it, feels dispossessed: America has been largely taken away from them and their kind, though they are determined to try to repossess it and to prevent the final destructive act of subversion. 
The old American virtues have already been eaten away by cosmopolitans and intellectuals; the old competitive capitalism has been gradually undermined by socialistic and communistic schemers; the old national security and independence have been destroyed by treasonous plots, having as their most powerful agents not merely outsiders and foreigners as of old but major statesmen who are at the very centers of American power. Their predecessors had discovered conspiracies; the modern radical right finds conspiracy to be betrayal from on high.
I grew up talking to the former (and now made semi-indigent) Black Panthers that hung out near the Yale Co-Op bookstore, Educated Burger, and Yorkside Pizza who my dad would buy coffee for while trying to direct to jobs he either procured for them on campus, or with his small janitorial company.

As a young ghetto nerd, I would also read the zine Cover Action Quarterly with all its tales of the Drug War, narco-terrorism, the rise of the national security state, and black ops. And of course, I have spent many an hour listening to Coast To Coast AM in its heyday when Art Bell was predicting the now/then/soon to be future back in the early 1990s. 

I was groomed to love and appreciate a good conspiracy theory.

In the Age of Obama, the Right-wing media and its bloviators have moved on from the black helicopters, and a looming United Nations Army that was poised to invade the United States via improperly insured Mexican trucks, on to various varieties of birtherism, trutherism, and a "Muslim" Black American President who hates white folks and is going to put them in chains.

Conspiracy theories can thrive both on a surplus of information (look! don't you see! it is obvious! the truth is hiding in plain sight!) as well as a paucity of data points (it is there if you just look harder! they are hiding the truth from us all! the absence of evidence is evidence in and of itself!).

In total, my rule has been to look for patterns; I also have come to realize that it isn't the big conspiracies that you need to worry about. Rather, it is those small incremental changes that are working towards a larger paradigm shift which catch a people flat-footed and unaware.

In all, power is not always punitive and punishing. Power is most beguiling when it rewards participation and obedience.

Those qualifiers and instincts having been noted, I am at a loss to explain the deeper game at work with the various Right-wing conspiracy theories that have unfolded as of late.

Consider the following:

Monday, October 1, 2012

Who is a Greater Threat to the United States? The "Obama Phone" Lady or Angry White Men with Guns?

It does not take a degree in cultural theory, visual culture, or expertise in semiotics to process the differences between these two pictures.

The first image, taken from The Washington Post's story about political polarization in Virginia, is of a white gun shop owner who believes that Barack Obama is a "socialist" working to destroy America. The second image is from a video that has gone viral on Right-wing websites: it features a poor black woman who supposedly receives a "free" phone through the "federal government."

These images are representations of reality that viewers and audiences invest with meaning and value. They are also stand-ins which are not wholly accurate because the public imposes its own priors, context, and assumptions onto the people who are depicted in these pictures.

Moreover, these visual representations also carry the weight and burdens of such identities as race, class, and gender. The latter are social frames and markers that help us to locate these two people--one a black woman, the other a white man--in our own cognitive map. Bodies, and our efforts to represent them visually, do not exist in a social, political, or cultural vacuum.

Our shared political culture in the United States is prefaced upon common understandings about democracy, political inclusion, meritocracy, and the virtues of civic participation. However, this model of political consensus is being strained and exhausted by a highly polarized media, political actors that are invested in amplifying our differences about (what should be) areas of common concern, and a self-fulfilling model where Red and Blue State America are depicted as being so vastly different, that "normal" politics and compromise across divides of party and ideology are made nearly impossible.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Fond Memories of Growing Up as a Ghetto Nerd: The New York Times Discovers the World of Bowling for "Action"

FIVE frames into the match, Rocky Salemmo was taking a beating. 
He and a partner had challenged a pair of young guns at Showplace Entertainment Center on Staten Island to a doubles bowling match for $50 a man, and now Mr. Salemmo, 48, who was once known as one of the top action bowlers, or betting players, in New York City, trailed by 68 pins. But when Mr. Salemmo’s bowling ball fails, his mouth takes over. He began telling his opponents about the time he jumped out the bathroom window at a bowling alley to avoid losing four grand.
They say that the worst and laziest form of conversation is "do you remember when?" I have always disagreed with that argument: when used occasionally,  "do you remember when?" can bring you to some nice places with friends who you have not seen a in a while, back full circle to some common and comfortable ground.

I grew up at a bowling center. Bowling is my lost friend that I had to put aside for a few (too many years) as I went to do other things. There were and are many friends, all of us, tied together by being at tournaments on the weekend, practicing during the week, and trying to bowl as much as humanly possible for free in the summer. We too have gone our separate ways; I hope we can come back together again.

As a ghetto nerd, I know many of you/us have similar stories. Bowling has gone the way of arcades and Times Square. These spaces once  had personality, were full of seedy and fun characters, human mascots who seemed to be there everyday and all day, cigarette smoke, and vice. Now, they are sanitized and bereft of all personality and charm.

The New York Times rediscovered that almost lost moment with its story about local "action" bowling legend Rocky Salemmo:
Rocky got his first bowling ball at age 11 from his father, who died shortly afterward in a motorcycle crash on Hylan Boulevard. His mother worked the snack bar at Country Lanes on Staten Island, and Rocky played there constantly. During his early teens, he began tagging along with his cousin Lucy, a top money bowler. He fell in with money players with names like Snake, Mike the Crook and the Count. 
“We called him the Count because he only came out at night,” Mr. Salemmo said. 
Driving together to the lanes, they would hatch that night’s hustling schemes: the secret signal before purposely losing a match; the fake fight to make the group look drunk and beatable; and where to rendezvous if they ran out of money and had to flee a losing bet. 
Mr. Salemmo, who is of short stature and bowls lefty, throws a big hook that teeters on the edge of the left gutter before swooping back to the pins. His stories, too — delivered rapid-fire with a thick New York accent — are elliptical but somehow come back to the point: how bowling for bets has supported him for most of his adult life. He added that as well as he bowled, he was equally bad at gambling, and that he would promptly blow much of his winnings on bad bets on horse-racing and other sports. 
There are still the occasional matches, but the bowling wagering scene has largely faded in recent years, and Mr. Salemmo has begun driving a stretch limousine for his brother Joe, 47, who runs a limo and D.J. company.
He really is a relic of another time

Bowling has souled out and gone corporate. The sport has long been in a crisis, and the choice to go all high tech, with glowing pins, horrible music, laser light shows, and other distractions were desperate efforts to appeal to a generation raised on video games and cable TV. The Professional Bowling Association, on the cusp of dying, crossed over as well by introducing new formats, focusing on bowler's personalities in order to tell a compelling story for viewers, and trying to update the style of its broadcasts on ESPN. In total, these efforts have been a mixed blessing.

It is apparently now more difficult to find a real pro shop, and a traditional bowling alley that is not ruined by all of the distractions and spectacle; bowling is staying alive, and hopefully it will bring in enough young people and children who will have their curiosity sparked as they realize the amount of skill and practice necessary to compete on an elite level in the sport.

Ultimately, whatever ghetto nerd locale you frequented, it was about the people, the memories, and the formative experiences you had there, that in adulthood, you look back upon with a smile. 

As such, I love this part of Rocky Salemmo's reminiscence, for it is very familiar:

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Barack Obama isn't a "Real" President: Newt Gingrich Channels Birth of a Nation (Again)

Sometimes they make it all too easy. I called out this predictable strategy months ago on The Ed Schultz Radio Show. My gifts of prognostication are not that great; it is simply that the Republican Party is desperate, uncreative, and bereft of new ideas. The Southern Strategy is simply a bad rerun that the Right has given up trying to update or repackage.

Newt Gingrich and the Tea Party GOP are so very 19th century in their fears of "Black Reconstruction," "Negro Rule," and President Obama. Prominent conservatives have developed a set of talking points which suggest that the country's first black president--and by extension African-Americans as a community--is lazy, irresponsible, shiftless, incompetent, uppity, arrogant, a thief, not a citizen or "real" American, wants to steal money from hard working white people in order to give it lazy negroes, and oppresses the good white people of America.

At this point, it is abundantly clear that Gingrich, Romney, and the assorted "polite racists" in the country's de facto White Party must either carry around copies of Thomas Dixon's The Clansmen in their pockets (right next to their laminated copies of the Constitution), or host weekly viewings of D.W Griffith's movie The Birth of a Nation at their homes or offices.

During Reconstruction, African-American legislators were described by the white southern democrat press in terms not too unlike those used by Gingrich and the Right-wing media when they talk about Barack Obama today. Given that the Dixiecrats are now Republicans, and the Tea Party GOP has absorbed the former Confederacy, conservatives should simply go back to the future and publicly state that Barack Obama is a "monkey," or alternatively describe the White House, the First Family, and black elected officials as a "menagerie."

It would be much more efficient than the charade of racial dog whistles and air raid sirens that the Right and its noise machine have deployed to date. Honesty can be refreshing, even when it has the stench of white racism and white racial resentment, that in combination, form the go to game plan for the Republican Party in the Age of Obama.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Brother X-Squared, Black Revolutionary Genius and Freedom Fighter, Returns to Discuss "The Master" and the 2012 Presidential Election

The We Are Respectable Negroes News Network (WARNNN) is proud to bring you the latest installment in our long-running series of interviews with Brother X-Squared, president of the North American Chapter of the Renewed Black Panther Party.

As long time followers of WARNNN already know, Brother X-Squared is a potent activist, black futurist, scholar, philosopher, and visionary thinker. He is also a noted cultural critic in the greatest tradition of African American commentary and letters. It has been seven months since our last interview, where Brother X-Squared offered his thoughts on the Oscars, the Republican Primaries, and the future of President Obama. 

In this interview, Brother X-Squared has returned to update us on his travels, make predictions about the 2012 presidential race, and to discuss the new films The Master and End of Watch.

WARNNN: Hello Brother X-Squared, it has been quite a while since we chatted online. You and have talked a few times over the last few months but you have been otherwise distracted and quite involved with other matters. I was concerned about you and your state of mind. Given some of things you were alluding to, I had become worried about your health. How are you?

Brother X-Squared: I am fine. I appreciate your concern.

WARNNN: You are not going to yell at me for suggesting that you were distracted or otherwise imperiled? This is out of character for you. I am even more concerned about you now.

Brother X-Squared: The great beast of the wilderness does not have to show rage and anger for you to feel his power. Does the wind need to blow for you to respect its force? Does the Earth Mother, all respect due to our First Nations brothers and sisters, or Brother Wind from Africa who blew the slave ships across the Atlantic so that our souls could be sent back home in flight, freed as warrior spirits hardened into steel by the white man's whips and chains, have to arrange a demonstration of their power for you to believe in it? 

WARNNN: I would not risk such a demonstration.

Brother X-Squared: As you should not! My powers have only grown as I have traveled this country, laying in wait for the inevitable changes that are upon us! The Alpha and Omega of my freed African Black Atlantic consciousness has been playing a game of Go mixed with Chess, there are games within riddles and you lost Nubians are either sitting around afraid of Tea Party nonsense racism or wasting time worshiping a half-African whose blood is diluted by his white ancestry. 

You are all lost! Children complaining about chairs stuck in trees being lynched, caught up there like they were being flown by that old white man who talks to dogs in that movie Up! Babies look at stars projected onto ceilings and play with mobiles and other toys. 

Boohoo complainers about the white man's petty racism are in the same league! Afraid to look at the true light that is Brother X-Squared!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Mitt Romney Simply Doesn't Care That Black Americans Purchased Their Full Citizenship in Blood

Mitt Romney's claim in his "47 Percent" speech that black Americans are anti-citizens who will destroy the Republic is still needling me.

There are pundits, and other members of the commentariat class whose work I respect, that have somehow found a way to explain away Romney's comment as somehow "normal partisanship." Their rationalizations transform his ugly speech into something relatively "benign." 

The argument goes as follows: Romney believes that the Democrats are destroying the country; any group that supports the Democrats are part of that "problem"; consequently, if blacks and Latinos remain loyal to the Democratic Party then the country will be imperiled. 

I have tried to work through that logic. I cannot accept it given the broader context of Romney's campaign to "blacken" and "niggerize" Barack Obama. For Romney and the Right, Obama is "stained" because of his imagined proximity to the black community, and how African-Americans are supposedly lazy, irresponsible, disloyal, dependent, and parasites on White America.

The race-baiting of the Right works not only by making claims on Barack Obama as an individual: the racist stereotypes and white racial resentment channeled by populist conservatives are a function of how imagined group attributes are linked to a given person by virtue of their membership in that community.

Ultimately, there are many in the pundit classes who are beholden to the news cycle.The fact that Romney is a racist, one who uses white racial resentment as a cudgel, is no longer interesting to them. For others, especially journalists of color, I would imagine that "racism chasing" fatigue sets in at a certain point. Predictably, they become tired of pointing out the obvious.

Truth-telling becomes a hostage to practical concerns. 

By comparison, I am hardheaded and indefatigable.

On Sunday, I was reminded of why any suggestion that places the loyalty and commitment of Black Americans as citizens in question is so deeply unsettling to me. PBS aired a great documentary exploring how the American Civil War impacted the country's understanding of death and loss. Republic of Suffering, the book upon with the documentary was based is an essential exploration of those themes. Death and the Civil War was a fitting companion to that excellent text.

Monday, September 24, 2012

More Than the 47 Percent: Mitt Romney's Ugly Marriage of Ayn Rand and the Southern Strategy

Mitt Romney’s recently leaked speech where he described 47 percent of the American people as freeloaders, moochers, and bums because they are “dependent” on the federal government has spawned many questions. However, he has also presented the American people with a puzzle.

Mitt Romney believes that taxes are a horrible thing, and that they should be cut despite any harm such a move may do to the federal budget, the common good, or the social safety net.

Given this fact, why are Mitt Romney and his fellow Republicans not cheering for those in the 47 percent who are not paying any federal taxes at all?

The answer has been hiding in plain sight: those people, the “takers” are coded as black and brown. The “us,” the “makers” are understood to be white.

Of course, this is a lie and a misrepresentation of reality (more whites are poor and on government assistance than any other group in America); nevertheless this fiction serves Romney’s campaign of overt and subtle racism against Obama quite well.

Romney’s narrative of “makers” and “takers” is rooted in the Republican Party’s ability to put a black and brown face on poverty in America by the use of what has come to be described as “the Southern Strategy.” Since at least Richard Nixon, conservatives realized that by linking anti-poverty programs to people of color that white support for these policies can be undercut.

 The irony is harsh: more white people are on welfare and Medicaid for example; yet, white voters are driven by a fear of a black bogeyman or “illegal immigrants” to make choices that are not in their immediate or long term economic interests.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Chauncey DeVega's World of Ghetto Nerds: A Selection From My Novella in Progress "Zombie Lives"

I was able to go to Chicon 7 thanks to the kind fans and boosters of WARN.

When my begging bowl was in hand, I offered a bargain. In exchange for your support, I would offer up a story of both lascivious embarrassment and romantic "epic fail." I would also share parts of a side project I have been working on for fun.

I like to keep my bargains whenever possible. As I mentioned earlier, I have shared portions of this project with a few published fiction writers and other folks that I trust. The response to the sample chapters range from "you got something here that is really good, do x, y, and z," to "not my thing, I don't get speculative fiction or zombie stuff," to "I like this, keep writing, you have enough chapters, and send it off with a pitch/query letter and use the feedback as advice until you get lucky."

At Chicon 7 I had the good fortune to talk to Jack McDevitt. His advice was simple. Don't be afraid. Learn to accept rejection. Listen to trusted friends and others who tell you the truth. He told me directly, in a very kind way, that I already have cashed checks (not enough) for my writing, non-fiction or not, and this means you can do something well enough to get paid by someone. As such, I am already ahead of 90 percent of those other folks who never get a check from anyone.

He asked me, "what do you have to lose?" Not much.

My, much a work in progress, elevator pitch (still too long) is something like this:
Zombie Lives is a work of speculative fiction that is a combination of George Romero meets No Country for Old Men. Zombie Lives is set in the near future where the undead, called "Grabbers," have come to rule most of the world. However, the living have adapted to their existence, residing in fortified cities and communes in relative comfort. 
For most people, the idea that people die and that some return to eat the living is simply a fact of life. However, the vast majority of human beings have never seen a Grabber. As the generations pass, most people become comfortably numb to the fact that they are a minority in the world, forever imperiled.  
Written as a series of interconnected stories, the central conflict in Zombie Lives revolves around how an ensemble of characters, a college aged student, a bounty hunter, a group of constables, and a self-style religious mystic turned street preacher, have come to realize the absurdity of their lives. While they have come to accept the truth--that humans are a minority in a world now ruled by the walking dead--most other people are in denial. 
Ultimately, this culture of denial and lying will destroy them all. The Grabbers are coming, and what were once just phantom bogeymen will soon make themselves all too real for the denizens of the community known as Low Town.
Most of the current books about zombies are all about blood and guts and don't try to use the genre to say anything substantial about our human condition, existential dilemmas, or society at large. Zombie Lives is of course a good old fashioned zombie story where the undead walk the Earth, wreak havoc, but where we, the living, are as always, the real monsters. It is also a meditation on politics, culture, race, and emotion which reflects a political and social moment where citizens have lost faith in government and its ability to solve shared problems.

Have fun at my expense. For obvious reasons, here is just a small excerpt that makes sense on its own, and teases what is to come. If you want more, are curious, have suggestions, do chime in.

Chapter Two: Toro the Constable

Toro knelt on one knee, eyes looking up at the seams of the door. Light crept from out and under them, dust fluttering about. Only five foot six in his biggest and most imposing pair of combat boots, his mom thought it good luck to give him the family name, handed down from her great great grand-mom back in Aztlan to her daughter Kikoko and then all the way to him.

“Mariposa” doesn’t fit too well with boys. And even accounting for the absurdity of a world in which the dead had long ceased dying, being named “butterfly” (even if it was given the masculine edge of "Mariposo") was an indignity that resulted in many a fight and none too few a black eye.

Toro even went by the name Mothra during his teen years (a gender mismatch given that the famed monster was female...but few knew such details); re-christening himself after the great kaiju monster he grew up watching on the old holovids his mom had spoiled him with as a young boy. Mothra only lasted for a few years though, discarded as soon as he left his old clique turned street gang at 18 to move into a new living community with an ailing mom, two younger sisters, a cousin, three very wizened and old, but still quite tough dogs, and one semi-feral cat named Trina.

Thus, Mariposo, a male butterfly, turned Mothra a female kaiju monster, turned Toro a bull, found himself in a household of women.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Beyond Mitt Romney's "47 Percent" Quip: Black and Hispanic Democrats Will Destroy the United States

Something to think about for a Friday.

If you have not listened to all of Romney's leaked speech, it is worth watching in its entirety. There is one portion of Romney's fundraising in private "let me tell you what I really think about the little people" conversation that has been little discussed by the pundit classes.

There, Romney said the following:
We're having a much harder time with Hispanic voters. And-- and if the Hispanic voting bloc-- be-- becomes as committed to the Democrats as the African American voting bloc has in-- in the past, why we're-- we're in trouble as a party and, I think, as a nation. 
This is a slap in the face to tens of millions of Americans.

[And you wonder why the Tea Party GOP is trying to keep black and brown folks from voting.] 

First, Romney assumes that black people are anti-citizens whose participation in the democratic process has severely damaged the country. Second, Hispanics and Latinos are going to complete this destruction if they let themselves be tainted by the bad habits of African Americans, and those anti-American tricksters in the Democratic Party.

Romney's racialization of black and brown folks' citizenship, especially given how we have been politically marginalized in a country where white supremacy was the law of the land for centuries, is one more example of the ugly racism which drives his "turn out the base" strategy. As Toure said some weeks ago, Romney is engaged in the systematic "niggerization" of President Obama. One of the ways this is done is by "niggerizing" black people as a group.

Some questions.

Why has there been so much silence on this issue? Are Romney's opponents and critics in the media saving this soundbite for a later moment? Is his quip about half of the population being lazy bums viewed as enough of a bullet, and to bring up another racist claim by Romney is considered overkill? Or do the pundits feel that they have already established the fact that Romney is using racist dog whistles, as well as trying to mobilize white racial resentment. Consequently, why go there again?

The black blogosphere and social activist types online are boohooing and bemoaning the "lynching" of two chairs, but they are silent about a candidate for the Office of the President of the United States who suggested that African Americans, a group which has helped drive and force American democracy forward, are actually agents of its imperilment.

Help me understand. What are your theories?

The Ku Klux Klan Blows Fire Out of Their Noses as Racism Chasers Panic Over "Lynched" Chairs

The image at left was taken by a person passing through the neighborhood. Now, one could easily argue "it's just a chair, what's the big deal? That's not racist!" 
However, in light of Clint Eastwood's speech at the Republican National Convention, in which he had a largely one-sided conversation with an empty chair he pretended was Barack Obama, this imagery is now associated with the President. 
The image of the chair is associated with the President. Now, lynch that chair from a tree, and you've got a pretty awful racist sentiment calling for lynching the first African-American President!... 
I called the homeowner to ask about his display, citing my concerns as a fellow Austinite. He replied, and I quote, "I don't really give a damn whether it disturbs you or not. You can take [your concerns] and go straight to hell and take Obama with you. I don't give a shit. If you don't like it, don't come down my street." 
Ironically, the homeowner in question, Bud Johnson, won "Yard of the Month" in August 2010 from his Homeowners Association. I guess his display was a little different that month?
In these moments, I am struck by the dualism that is multicultural democracy in the Age of Obama. In many ways, formal racism has been vanquished. Yet, we are obsessed with finding examples of racism in order to remind ourselves of how far the nation has to go. The result is a national play coloured by the absurd and the bizarre.

I am all for calling out racism. I am also all for calling attention to white supremacy. However, there are moments when I just have to laugh at how racism chasing runs amok, and otherwise well-meaning people follow a fool's errand, taking the enemy's feint, holding on like a junkyard dog.

Be warned. Such choices are exhausting and will put holes in your racism chasing shoes.  

Apparently, two white racist reactionary conservatives have chosen to hang chairs from trees in order to lynch President Obama in absentia and by metaphor.  

I understand the deeply rooted structural inequalities of white racism in this society.

I also fully understand how the foul deeds of a few can tell us something about whiteness' deep sociopathology, and its assorted micro-aggressions against people of color.

However, something is horribly amiss when given all of the evidence about systematic white racism in this society, that "lynched" chairs are the source of a mass upset

There is a curious element at play here. For example, the Daily Kos has an essay on these "lynched" chairs, and the foul bigots who would defile furniture, that has almost 400 comments. By comparison, substantive discussions of white racism are often met with denial, deflection, and rage on the same site.

Ultimately, I would suggest that all of this hullabaloo over lynched chairs is a pathetic joke. It is a sugar high that lets good liberals feel that they are winning the good fight against those evil, old school, paleo-racists, that still lurk among us.

It is easy to confront low hanging fruit. It is far more difficult to critically engage how day-to-day white racism and white privilege, often enabled by "well-meaning" white folks, is a reality in this country. 

I must ask: how would those folks who are offended, upset, scared, and not at peace over the equivalent of a failed Chappelle skit respond to real racial violence, or an event such as the KKK's march on Washington during the 1920s?

History teaches us again. During the postbellum period, the KKK were masters of psychological warfare who went to great lengths in order to intimidate and frighten free black Americans. For example, the lynched chairs remind me of this darkly comic anecdote:
Special effects designed to support the belief that Klansmen were Confederate dead returned from hell were later added to their tricks. If a Black was on trial, Klan members sprinkled a little powder which they called "hell fire" on the floor beforehand. When the Black defendant looked down at the floor, one of the Klansmen would run his foot over the powder line, causing a fiery-looking trail. Sometimes and immense volume of flame was blown from the nose.  
We have been conditioned to respond like Pavlov's dogs to racism. Consequently, in our efforts to do right, many of us have lost a sense of calibration, proportion, and precision. Black and brown folks, and white anti-racists, need to expend our efforts on those battles that can really make a difference in our collective life chances, as opposed to weakening our forces on fool's errands such as "lynched" chairs. 

Thursday, September 20, 2012

"The Man" is Still Holding Down Working Class White People...and Helping the Blacks and Other Minorities Too Much

The Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) has a new survey on the attitudes of "white working class" voters. That label has become an imprecise catch-all that makes for great headlines and conversation among the pundit classes; but it is much more slippery when actually examined empirically. 

For example, a good amount of research has demonstrated that poor people tend to vote for the Democrats. Yet, white men who do not possess college degrees, and have "blue collar" jobs, tend to vote overwhelmingly for Republicans. And in the aggregate, "white working class voters" men without college degrees, and who are not working in salaried jobs, overwhelming support Mitt Romney.

The idea that working class white people are possessed of false consciousness, and are voting against their material interests when they support the Tea Party GOP has become a type of truism. Nevertheless, I believe it is largely an accurate description of their behavior. However, I have also come to realize that perhaps these voters are simply using a different voting calculus, one where white skin and the psychic wages of whiteness matter more than other variables. Their politics are not "abnormal" per se; rather, these voters are simply working towards a different set of goals.

As a complement to this observation, the PRRI has some rich findings that include:

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

More Conservative Commentariat Class Eliminationist Rhetoric about the "47 Percent": "Thanks To Romney, We Can Single Out ‘Parasites’"

What do you do with parasites? You crush them like cockroaches.

Once more the Right and the Tea Party GOP show us who they have always been. Romney and Ryan are drunk on the Ayn Rand Kool Aid where society is divided between worthwhile people who are "suppliers" or "job creators" and surplus people who are government tit suckers. Instead of running away from Romney's "47 percent of the American public are a waste of oxygen who are dependent on the State and a black President who gives them things they don't deserve" comment, a few brave souls are doubling down.

The eliminationist rhetoric that has become a type of political Esparanto for the Right over the last few decades is dangerous, inflammatory, and violent. On CNN, Mary Matalin, Republican talking head, doubles down on the Tea Party GOP's understanding of those citizens who are "valuable," and those others who ought to be made into Soylent Green.

Matalin used to be one of the more sane Right-wing pundits. It would seem that she too has crossed over from a type of conservatism that was typified by a stay the course, middle of the road, traditionalism, over to a reckless radicalism that seeks to undo the social compact and consensus politics of the post World War Two era and the Great Society.

Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan, and the Ayn Rand wing of the Republican Party are now plainly stating what many have long suspected about American society in the neoliberal age. Citizenship is tiered. It has always been.

We are all equal; however, some of us are more equal--and valuable--than others. The former are to be damned. Conservatives, the Tea Party people especially, who are in the 47 percent are surplus people too.

They simply have not realized it yet.

Open Thread: Deconstructing the Potpourri of Awfulness that is Romney's "47 Percent of Americans Are Lazy Moochers" Speech

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Here is the full video of Mitt Romney's speech to his private donors recorded in May at the home of a sex party hosting, "values voter" booster Marc Leder. The transcript is available here.

There is so much to be said about Romney's speech. I do not know where to begin.

If it were not serious, I would think Romney's open admissions about his joy at outsourcing jobs, putting people out of work, and that Americans, i.e. black and brown folks are lazy moochers whose votes Obama have purchased with welfare and other "entitlements," was an updated version of Andy Kaufman's genius skits about professional wrestling and the thin line between "reality" and "fiction." 

Rather, this is who Mitt Romney really is; this video is also a stark representation of how the plutocrats who support the Tea Party GOP actually think about the rest of us, those surplus people in the 53 percent that ought to simply be gotten rid of. Yes, gotten rid of and destroyed. My suggestion here is not an error in either nuance or emphasis.

We have not done an open thread here on WARN in some time. Romney's potpourri of rich people's entitlement-laced hypocrisy and Ayn Rand awfulness seems as good a reason to chat it up as any other. 

Some thoughts to start us off.

How do you feel about Romney's suggestion that Latinos are an existential threat to the United States, and if they become a solid part of the Democrat base like "the blacks," the nation's future is imperiled?

Did you know that Mitt Romney is a self-made man? Daddy's bucks never helped him. Apparently, those lazy, greedy people just want to rob and steal from hardworking children of millionaires and billionaires like Romney and his friends that pulled off their own Horatio Alger miracle. They are the real victims in the Age of Obama and the Great Recession. In fact, class envy of their enterprising nature and talent, is how Obama, and those who are not John Galt, are destroying America. 

Romney is reiterating the standard line that in America white folks are victimized by people of color. In the world of the Tea Party GOP and its politics of white victimology, white people are a besieged and oppressed class whose life chances would be made better if they could only access "reverse discrimination" programs such as "affirmative action," or get ahold of the mythic "race card."

Moreover, Romney is reinforcing the bizarre belief that in the Age of Obama racism against white people is a bigger problem than that against people of color--despite all of the available evidence to the contrary. Is there anything more absurd than a group of rich white people like Mitt Romney bemoaning their relative "disadvantage?" If so, do share.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Conservatives Grasping at Straws and in Denial: Romney's "47 Percent of the American People are Lazy Bums" is a Great Political Opportunity in Disguise

Mitt Romney is the gift that keeps on giving (or is that taking?). His most recent misstep involves his being recorded at a fundraiser in May joking about outsourcing American jobs to China, and where he called half of the American people free-loading bums who are dependent on Barack Obama. Apparently, the latter is receiving support from these same surplus urchins and government tit suckers only because Obama is giving them free money.

I am working on something more substantive on Romney's "47 percent pay no taxes" lie--and the ugly politics driving his behavior--as we speak. In the meantime, I wanted to share this piece from the Right-wing website NetRight Daily.

Conservatives are falling all over themselves to spin Romney's gaffe into a positive. They are hoping his spurious claims about the "lazy" "unproductive" Americans, the majority of which live in Red State America and vote Republican, can be a national conversation starter about how President Obama has "destroyed" the American Dream and created a class of "dependent" people.

The Right media is trying to turn a political feces sandwich into caviar. It will not work. However, given the sophisticated propaganda operation that is the Right-wing echo chamber, anything remains possible. To point, we have witnessed stranger things in American life than the Tea Party neo-John Birchers who cry about the "immigrants" and the "minorities" all the while clinging to their social security checks and clamoring for "limited government." American politics is a theater for the absurd: as such, Romney's dream merchants may be able to convince the low information Tea Party people, and Right-leaning Independents, that he is in the race for the little guy. Who knows how it will all play out?

Bill Wilson makes some suggestions that I do hope Romney follows--as they will only make matters worse for his campaign. Wilson's piece is a better than average representation of the waste that is produced by the Right-wing myth making machine. As such, there is a good amount going on both in his unstated assumptions and priors, as well as misreads of empirical reality that demand comment (which I will leave up to all of you).

From "Romney's Opportunity": 
At the May fundraiser, Romney had suggested that Republicans’ “message of low taxes doesn’t connect” with those who pay no income tax, and that his job was “not to worry about those people” politically. Because, he said, “I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”
This is actually a pretty astute political analysis of likely voter trends based on income.

But there’s more to it than that. On a more basic level, Romney is telling the truth about the state of dependency in the U.S., and is calling attention to the perverse incentives politically that are created when government assistance becomes a way of life for millions of Americans.

At the same time, Romney was wrong to imply that those same people do not or would not want to escape that web of dependency, that those who are unemployed or poor are so by choice. Therefore, that those stuck on welfare choose to stay there.
Wilson continues:
Sensing the missed opportunity to connect with those presently struggling in this economy, Romney clarified at his press conference that his “campaign is about helping people take more responsibility and becoming employed again” and that he wants “to help all Americans have a bright and prosperous future”.

He added, “Particularly for those who don’t have work, this whole campaign is focused on getting people jobs again”. This is exactly what he needs to be saying.

After all, which is more helpful to most Americans: a real job and the chance for social mobility, or a meager government check that will not save their homes?

Here, Romney is taking the opportunity to pivot his message to how he plans to help all Americans, even ones who are not planning to vote for him, all the while sticking to the original premise of his message that Barack Obama’s campaign is a direct albeit misguided appeal to government dependents...
This video may, in the end, be a blessing in disguise for Romney. But only if he quickly takes advantage of the opportunity it has created for him to explain why government dependency is destroying America. 
Winning over voters by insulting them is always a great strategy for any Presidential candidate. It is especially so when a good portion of the voters Romney has called lazy, dependent, bums are senior citizens, veterans, people in the military, and others who are part of the Tea Party GOP coalition.

Please Mr. Romney, I am begging you, do follow through on Bill Wilson's advice and make his wise words your talking points of the day, week, and month. The American people need to be reminded of what Mitt Romney actually thinks about them as often as possible in order to make an informed decision on election day in November.