Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Piss-Poor Metaphors and Crippled Thinking: 'America is the Michael Brown Among Nations' and 'Ferguson has Become the Liberal Benghazi'

Shameless self-promotion.

I am scheduled to be a guest on the RT Network show The Big Picture this Friday. I will be discussing how Ferguson is a national problem and other related matters. If time allows, I most certainly will mention how Jonathan Capehart is wrong in his claim that "hands up, don't shoot" is based on a lie.

As I distill down my thoughts to some witty pithy on Ferguson for Friday, I offer a related topic...

Language is one of the ways through which human beings (and other animals) describe reality. Language can also be used for wish fulfillment, to twist the world around oneself to fulfill a fantasy.

Some writers conquer the page. Other writers allow their characters to be channeled through them. There are writers and essayists would have a clear point of view, and do their best to write in a normative fashion about the world as they see and experience it.

Some folks just spin written yarns out of bovine scatology for questionable political ends and as a disservice to the common good.

James Howard Kunstler (hat tip to "Buddy H" for calling this mess out) and the Washington Post's Richard Cohen are engaged in some piss-poor thinking in their respective blog posts and editorial columns "Kicked to the Curb" and "Ferguson and Benghazi's Troubling Parallels".

Cohen and Kunstler have committed first degree murder against metaphor use and clear thinking. Unfortunately, they can only be "executed" once.

In Kicked to the Curb, Kunstler wrote:
I begin to understand why the death of Ferguson, Mo, teen Michael Brown sent such shock waves through America last year. He truly symbolized our country: an overgrown, oafish, wannabe thug making one bad choice after another until his final, suicidal lurch against authority — followed by all the exculpatory lying on his behalf: the “gentle giant,” hands up, don’t shoot! This is exactly how America acts on the world stage these days. We are the Michael Brown among nations, high on exceptionalism, stoned on entitlement, swaggering moronically from one place to another grabbing what we feel like, smashing things up as we go.
Richard Cohen, offering click-bait in a desperate act of attention seeking, vomited out:
Ferguson has become the liberal Benghazi. It is more of a cause than a place, more of an ideological statement than an incident. Ferguson was not the racist murder it was thought to be, and Benghazi was not an incident in which the Obama administration’s incompetence or timidity allowed four Americans to die. The facts argue otherwise. 
Both events tell us something about the passions of our times. It was quickly apparent what had happened at Ferguson. Michael Brown was not on his knees, hands up, when he was shot. He was rushing at the police officer
Did he deserve to die? No. But did Darren Wilson shoot him for no reason? Again, no. Did the Justice Department later find that Ferguson’s police force was a cesspool of racism, incompetence and corruption? Yes. But did any of that mean that Wilson killed Brown in cold blood or that Brown was shot because he was black? No and no... 
A grand jury studied what happened and did not indict Wilson. Eric Holder’s Justice Department reached the same conclusion. Let me offer another conclusion: If Brown was not criminally shot because he was black, then possibly the cop was accused because he was white. Who was the stereotyped individual here? 
Still, Ferguson became a cause — and has remained one. It is a town of only about 21,000 — a bad day at Yankee Stadium — and yet it has repeatedly been the lead story for many news organizations. It was made to represent institutional racism across the nation, but it is, really, a tiny nondescript place where a supposedly racist and unjustifiable killing by the police did not occur. It does, though, conform to the very keen feelings of people who see white racism everywhere.
Bad intent, piss-poor thinking and writing, and intellectual dishonesty along the colorline are common afflictions for the pundit classes in America when they discuss matters of justice and human rights for black and brown folks.

If language does political work, how would you "read" and deconstruct Kunstler and Cohen's writing(s) on Ferguson, Michael Brown, justice, and race?


Buddy said...

Following the acquittal of George Zimmerman for the shooting of Trayvon Martin in July 2013, Cohen wrote "a controversial column in which he defends George Zimmerman's suspicion of Travyon Martin and calls on politicians to acknowledge that a disproportionate amount of crimes are committed by black males". The column went on to say that Cohen "can understand why Zimmerman was suspicious and why he thought Martin was wearing a uniform we all recognize;" in any case, he also points out that "What I'm trying to deal with is, I'm trying to remove this fear from racism. I don't think it's racism to say, 'this person looks like a menace,'" he explained.

Buddy said...

Among all the neo-nazis and white supremacists in the comments section of Kunstler's blog, this excellent comment appeared, by someone called ALMOST:

You picked the wrong guy for your metaphor, Jim.

The United States is actually the Darren Wilson of nations: A punk-ass chickenshit in a uniform who roams around bullying and robbing everyone in the neighborhood, empties his clip into anyone who dares to resist his precious authority, and then claims that he was acting in self-defense.

Cut and paste this into the beginning of your piece, and the rest of it works. Your analysis of world events is pretty good, as long as you stay away from race. Your analysis of racial dynamics is consistently atrocious, though it does seem to play well with the white-supremacist faction of your readership.

kokanee said...

Re: "I am scheduled to be a guest on the RT Network show The Big Picture this Friday."

That's awesome! Break a leg!

Re: "Bad intent, piss-poor thinking and writing, and intellectual dishonesty
along the colorline are common afflictions for the pundit classes in
America when they discuss matters of justice and human rights for black
and brown folks."

Bad intent, piss-poor thinking and writing, and intellectual dishonesty are the norm for the pundit class no matter what the topic.

Study: Pundits Wrong Most Of The Time, Just Like You Always Imagined

Gable1111 said...

Only the most willfully blind could not see how the press has relied on stereotypes to describe Brown, his family and the people of Ferguson. Wilson's "super negro" description of Brown was classic; one need not be a scholar,let alone a "journalist" to grasp that.

In typical fashion Cohen is being dishonest and disingenuous, serving up another apologia for racism under the guise of real talk.

Cohen has done this for years, under the cover of a phony everyman shtick, writing racist tomes to "explain" black folk he's deathly afraid of. Then cry crocodile tears when called on it.

chauncey devega said...

Phillip Tetlock has a great book on expert reasoning that has greatly influenced my own efforts at talking on yee old TV and radio.

2nd time on the RT. I treat every chance I get to talk in those venues as an audition for the next one. Send me good energy :)

SeaMikeJ said...

Lazy. Lazy. Lazy.

These people use adult words to express the childish simplicity of the way their brains process reality. This is the same undiscerning intellect that has brought us genius ideas like trickle-down economics and war that pays for itself. The same logic that proffers paradoxes like it costs taxpayers less if more Americans AREN'T insured or that corporations are people, too.

How would I deconstruct this inanity? I cannot. You cannot. No one can. Even if you could the victory would be pyrrhic, because you'd end up (as Progressives often do) arguing using Conservative rules and language created to inflame and distract.

No, sir, your best tack is to treat these cowards with derision they deserve. That is what has made shows like the Daily Show and its' spin-offs so popular and so valuable. Don't wallow in the "bovine scatology" with them. Be Mandela. Be Gandhi. Be King. Speak to our better angels.

What value is there in winning a war that was never worth fighting?

Keep the faith.

joe manning said...

There has to be some grain of truth in propaganda if it is to be believable. If you abandon cognitive reality there's no true or false, up or down, right or wrong. Thus, events are ascertained discretely as compartmentalized, happenings completely void of context. Kunstler and Cohen have deliberately abandoned objectivity in their desperate effort to create an alternative right wing reality. Any honest observer should immediately see that their comments don't pass the smell test.

Mr.Cool said...


Yourami said...

Thanks Cohen and Cuntsler (sorry, too easy) for reminding us that center-lefties can be just as racist as radical right wingers. Most egregiously, Cohen cites the DOJ findings on the Ferguson police, while simultaneously refusing to put Darren Wilson's actions (and Michael Brown's reactions) into the context that the report describes.

Yourami said...

Also, in what alternate universe is any black man in America "entitled"? That poor kid lost his life, and so far no one has been held accountable.

kokanee said...

I think that's a great attitude. It will keep you focused and grounded. Sending positive energy transfer complete! ;)

Buddy said...

Same guy

physioproffe said...

Kunstler is a cranky old white Dude who sees everything through the lens of nostalgia for Olde Tyme Small Town (White) America.

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