Monday, July 26, 2010

Pathologies of The Right: American Spectator Magazine Brands Shirley Sherrod a Liar because her Relative wasn't Really Lynched, He was "Only" Murdered

In other words, the Supreme Court of the United States, with the basic facts of the case agreed to by all nine Justices in Screws vs. the U.S. Government, says not one word about Bobby Hall being lynched. Why? Because it never happened.

So why in the world would Ms. Sherrod say something like this?

No idea. It's possible that Ms. Sherrod simply doesn't know the truth. As with any family, stories from generations past can get handed down and over time the truth gets rubbed away and fantasy or fiction replaces it, younger generations none the wiser. This event took place before Ms. Sherrod was born, so that is certainly possible.

It's also possible that she knew the truth and chose to embellish it, changing a brutal and fatal beating to a lynching.

The image stirred by the image of the noosed rope in the hands of a racist lynch mob was, to say the least, frighteningly chilling. Did Ms. Sherrod deliberately concoct this story in search of a piece of that ugly romance to add "glamour" to a family story that is gut-wrenchingly horrendous already?

Again, I have no idea.

There is also a third possibility for what appears to be a straight-out fabrication. Having watched Ms. Sherrod's speech and read the transcript, I think it's abundantly clear that she is a liberal or progressive political activist.

She is clearly enamored of President Obama and the progressive ideas that once fueled the New Deal and is the rock upon which progressives would build their Utopia. Her fierce devotion to the idea that government programs are the source of all good is not to be missed, whether she is championing the idea of working in the federal government or the idea that a particular program where she doles out millions is a source of agricultural nirvana.


Following the debacle that is the Shirley Sherrod affair, the Right and its echo chamber have revealed themselves to be (perhaps) worse than I had ever imagined. In the rush of the conservative punditry to defend Fox News and Breitbart, their thin mask of decency has finally been thrown aside.

Of course, we can expect Limbaugh, Buchanan, Beck, and Coulter to continue with their bloviating, mouth frothing cries of reverse racism in the Age of Obama for that is their shtick. I am also willing to concede the cheap partisan games that Fox News plays as they race bait and gin up white racial anxiety in order to drive ratings. And ultimately, to my own immediate political and social concerns, I can sit not very surprised by how black conservatives have been noticeably silent on the Shirley Sherrod affair.

But, when is enough enough? At what point do the adults enter the room and say "no more?"

That moment has now passed, as conservative mouthpiece The American Spectator ran a column today suggesting that Shirley Sherrod's relative Mr. Bobby Hall was not lynched by the Klan. According to Jeffrey Lord, "he was only beaten to death." I kid you not. From The American Spectator's reasoning, the original "lie" that is Sherrod's story is proof of her lack of trustworthiness. By extension, "the exaggeration" of the circumstances surrounding the death of Shirley Sherrod's relation is evidence of a "racist" "progressive" agenda because Ms. Sherrod apparently does not criticize the Southern Democrats and Hugo Black, legendary Supreme Court justice (and noted member of the KKK), who freed her relative's killers.

Quite frankly, this is exhausting to even explore.

Never mind that lynching need not only be committed with a rope ("lynching" is a catch all phrase for murder by a group of people), but that an opinion journalist at a "respected" magazine would consider the terms of Ms. Sherrod's family story--a particularly painful and tragic act of white supremacy--as fair game for a political hit piece is beyond reproach.

In my writings here and elsewhere I try to be even handed. I assume that while I may hold deep seeded disagreements with conservatives on many an issue, that we are all (more or less) decent people at heart. But in the aftermath of Obama's election, it has become more and more apparent that many on the Right are possessed of no small amount of moral cowardice: Even when racism is obvious (as proven by the racial theater of The Tea Party, the Arizona and Texas resolutions, and the not so coded dog whistle that is the trope of "real Americans" and "Joe the Plumber," standard fare for Palin and her brood) they stand silent and in denial.

The games played in the aftermath of the Sherrod affair have led me to the following inexorable conclusion, one that is motivated by an adherence to parsimony in my reasoning, and the b.s. test famously called Occam's razor. In total, the New Right is threatened on an existential level by the fact that a black man had the unmitigated gall to run for President and that he won.

These folks (as typified by the Jeffrey Lord's, Pat Buchanan's, Rush Limbaugh's, Bill O'Reilly's and Glenn Beck's of the world) are also projecting their deeply rooted racial fears on to others. While they have long denied the existence of white racism (be it structural or personal) against black and brown people in this country, many on the Right are afraid that a black man who happens to be President will turn the tables on white folk and do to them what historically Whites as a group have visited on people of color in these United States for some 3oo or more years. In this twisted alternate reality white people are victims of racism, and black folks have been laying in wait for centuries to visit undeserved and unjust vengeance upon "The Man."

Sadly, we have reached an impasse in this country, one that neither a "beer summit" or "teachable moment" will correct. Why? Because denial mixed with fear are potent elements in a toxic stew of white racial resentment on the Right--a mix that will not be undone by appeals to reason, historical fact, or common sense. There is no pithy way to put it. These are very sick, sick people. I would be embarrassed for them if they had any shame.

The unbelievably vexing "Sherrod Story False," can be found here.


Tenured Radical said...

Well said. One of the things that my time in South Africa emphasized in my mind is also the role that outright propaganda plays in sustaining lethal forms of racism. While the Truth and Reconciliation process is acknowledged as not having been satisfactory, South Africans -- black, white and colored -- will also say that it was necessary. The choice *not* to pursue an official process of uncovering the lies, corruption and propaganda that Jim Crow violence relied on has had consequences, both in sustaining those practices and in a failure to connect current practices to the past.

Anonymous said...

As a white college instructor to a student body that is chiefly black, I've been asked to explain the TeaBaggers over and over again. "In total, the New Right is threatened on an existential level by the fact that a black man had the unmitigated gall to run for President and that he won" encapsulates it.

They fear being treated as they have treated others. And saying that someone who was beaten to death because of his race wasn't lynched is just sick.

Anonymous said...

Pathological - yes, why? history I guess and what, frustration? America is sick and getting sicker in many ways, but you know, it is anecdotal but, my 9 year old daughter said something that stuck the other day(she is bi-racial and goes to a school pretty evenly cut: white, black, hispanic) - "grown-ups are racist and kids are sexist"....

There is also something psychological going on in that most of the most vehement of the "reverse-racism" contingent do not consciously see what they are doing. Humans beings have an incredible capacity for denial (myself included).

OhCrapIHaveACrushOnSarahPalin said...

Sadly, we have reached an impasse in this country, one that neither a "beer summit" or "teachable moment" will correct. Why? Because denial mixed with fear are potent elements in a toxic stew of white racial resentment on the Right

I see it as being much worse. You have white conservatives who will tell you without even a smirk or hint of irony that it was white conservatives who voted in civil rights and liberal dems are the KKK. We are losing a propaganda war.

The worst part of it is -- and we all know this which is WHY we are losing -- you cannot fight propaganda with propaganda. Only a real education wins. But education is for the fags. So we really have to double down.

chaunceydevega said...

The Truth and Reconciliation process is very powerful. I wonder how that (wouldn't work) in the U.S. locally or as part of the criminal justice system, or more broadly given that we are an ahistorical people.

@anon--thanks, I do have to give credit to a poster who used similar language on another site. but, it fits perfectly, no?

Marc--this reverse racism mess is something else. I have a flash of insight on it that I will share next week.

Oh Crap--Great point. Education takes time though. How do we win the fight now?

Oh Crap said...

Oh Crap--Great point. Education takes time though. How do we win the fight now?

I don't know. I don't think we do. I get tired of all these stories on the Black kids who think skool iz dum, but the entire country thinks that. People don't send their kids to private school to be educated, they send them there so they can say they send their kids to private school.

The only reason to go to college is to make more munny, and those are the white flight school educated proto-supremacists, anyway. So until our country puts a primacy on education across the board again, we might have to be waiting it out for a generation.

Maybe by the time we're 95 things might start to come around again. My hopes on this are very dim.