Sunday, March 9, 2014

CPAC 2014: Do No Harm? Ben Carson is the Republican Party’s Newest Black Conservative Poison Pill

Dr. Ben Carson is a supremely talented and gifted surgeon. He is a credit to the medical profession.

He is also a black conservative darling who gave a rousing speech to the Right-wing faithful at the 2014 CPAC event.

These facts exist in tension with one another.

In some basic ways, Carson's role as a black human mascot and cheerleader for the White Right is a violation of the Hippocratic Oath he took as a doctor.

On a basic level, the Hippocratic Oath is a commitment to the truth. By comparison, Ben Carson's role in the Republican Party is based on lies and distortions.

Ben Carson’s fulfilling of the Republican Party’s fantasy that African-Americans are somehow hoodwinked and bamboozled in their decades of support for the Democratic Party is the first lie.

Here, Republicans, movement conservatives, and the White Right have reframed centuries of black citizenship and struggles for freedom into a narrative wherein African-Americans are dumb, stupid, and childlike. 

Apparently, African-Americans are not reasoning and sophisticated citizens capable of making their own decisions in the service of collective self-interest. No. They are stuck on a “plantation” and need black conservatives such as Ben Carson and Herman Cain to rescue them.

Ben Carson is a happiness pill. In any other context, this would be an extremely troubling role for a medical professional.

As a happiness pill, Carson is a placebo, a fake drug and a high, a salve for Republicans. His purpose, like that of other black conservatives, is to be human chaff, an ointment, which relieves them from the mountain of evidence and charges that the Republican Party is a racist organization.

Carson is also a poison pill for the Republican Party. 

His political vision is a failed one; he is playing the role of a black conservative political snake oil salesman to racially resentful white voters. More troubling, Ben Carson’s blackface version of white conservatism is a de facto embrace of white identity politics

The second poison pill is Ben Carson's claim that "Obamacare" is "the worst thing since slavery". His scare mongering Sarah Palin inspired death panel distortions of healthcare reform threaten to do real harm to the American people.

In fact, people of color in mass, young people, the elderly, as well as the poor and working classes, will all benefit from Obamacare.

A question: Where, and to whom, are Ben Carson's primary commitments as a medical professional?

Ben Carson is a doctor. His obligation to the truth, to do no harm, and the Hippocratic Oath, should demand that Carson not lie about the positive impact of Obama’s healthcare reforms in order to win support among his handlers in the Republican Party. Instead, Ben Carson has chosen the applause of white conservatives over his commitment to public health.

A second question: Is President Obama's expansion of the opportunity to buy health insurance really the worst thing to happen to American freedom since the enslavement of black Americans?

Although he has offered a facile clarification and more doublespeak on this issue, Ben Carson has repeatedly said that the answer is "yes".

What do the facts reveal?

After formal slavery ended, African-Americans suffered under almost 100 years of racial tyranny under a system called Jim and Jane Crow. They were robbed of citizenship and voting rights and subjected to a new type of bondage under debt peonage, convict leasing, and sharecropping laws. Thousands of black men, women, and children were also murdered by spectacular lynchings.

For Ben Carson, Jim and Jane Crow and its horrific racial violence are apparently not as bad as Obama’s healthcare reforms.

Carson is also invoking slavery in order to suggest that expanding healthcare opportunities is a type of “tyranny.”

What does the historical record tell us about white on black chattel slavery?

The enslavement of African-Americans was brutal: it was one of the greatest crimes in human history.

Millions of black people died during the Middle Passage; many millions more were killed by white on black chattel slavery across the Black Atlantic.

In all, white supremacy and racism were a total social system that involved religion, philosophy, science, economics, law, and ethics as it worked to legitimate a social hierarchy that judged "white" people superior to "non-whites".

White supremacy as a social and political system was prefaced on the dehumanization of people of color. Its logic extended to the medical and biological sciences.

"Medical Apartheid" was one of the systems of power that was born from centuries of white supremacy in America. Like slavery, it was cruel and inhumane.

For example, African-Americans were treated without anesthesia. Old, infirm, or "physically unusual" slaves were also sold to medical schools and private doctors for experimentation and study.

In addition, medical schools in the South tried to win students from the North and elsewhere with their promise of access to cadavers and other "subjects", i.e. black Americans, for examination and study.

How were these “subjects” treated?

Black women had their reproductive organs removed or otherwise manipulated by white doctors without the use of pain medication.

The backs of black human property would be cut open so that spinal cords could have boiling water poured on them to experiment with treatments for pneumonia.

African-Americans would be subjected to forced heat stroke in order to see if they could be cured of that affliction. One survivor recounted his experiences as: 
...Ordered a hole to be dug in the ground, three feet and a half deep by three feet long, and two feet and a half wide. Into this pit a quantity of dried oak bark was cast, and fire set to it. It was allowed to burn until the pit became heated like an oven, when the embers were taken out. A plank was then put across the bottom of the pit, and on that a stool. Having tested, with a thermometer, the degree to which the pit was heated, the Doctor bade me strip, and get in; which I did, only my head being above the ground. He then gave me some medicine which he had prepared, and as soon as I was on the stool, a number of wet blankets were fastened over the hole, and scantlings laid across them. This was to keep in the heat. It soon began to tell upon me; but though I tried hard to keep up against its effects, in about half an hour I fainted. I was then lifted out and revived, the Doctor taking a note of the degree of heat when I left the pit.
Vivisection by "night doctors" remains alive in the lived memory and oral traditions of African-Americans, where stories have been passed down about the torture and experimentation conducted on black slaves (and others) by white doctors.

The legacies of Medical Apartheid remain today with racially disparate healthcare outcomes and quality of care across the colorline.

Carson's political blackface routine is even more tragic as it involves an African-American betraying his commitment to truth-telling in order to advance the interests of a political party and movement that has neither love nor respect for people of color.

Ben Carson's suggestion that an effort to extend access to healthcare is in any way remotely akin to the enslavement, rape, murder, stolen labor, exploitation, abuse, and cruelty suffered by millions of African-Americans is a scurrilous and abominable lie.

It flattens history.

Moreover, Ben Carson is disrespecting the legacy of his ancestors by legitimating one of the American Right-wing's most popular lies, that African-American slavery "wasn't really that bad".

For all of his medical expertise and genius, Ben Carson is an example of the potent power of Right-wing political excreta to work in a human centipede-like fashion, as disinformation is recycled back and forth among those who live in the closed loop that is the Right-wing echo chamber.

Ben Carson is also a black conservative. There are few more lucrative jobs in American public life. And it is an especially good job if one can secure it...even if said job involves betraying one's professional ethics while eagerly consuming and regurgitating the Republican Party’s political waste at an open trough such as the annual CPAC meeting.


OldPolarBear said...

Compartmentalization is an amazing human talent, or it is for many humans. I would not be surprised if it is more or less universal, but I don't know enough to say. It is very useful to us but can also lead to strange and also harmful results. Your comments about his getting through medical school with such beliefs (assuming he has always held them) reminds me of a part of Orwells 1984. It is in Part 3, Chapter 3. O'Brien is telling Winston Smith that The Party is so powerful that it controls reality, that whatever The Party says is true because they say it. Smith tries to protest by citing the vast size of the universe, that the stars are millions of miles away and that The Party cannot control them. O'Brien replies:

'What are the stars?' said O'Brien indifferently. 'They are bits of fire
a few kilometres away. We could reach them if we wanted to. Or we could
blot them out. The earth is the centre of the universe. The sun and the
stars go round it.'

Winston made another convulsive movement. This time he did not say
anything. O'Brien continued as though answering a spoken objection:

'For certain purposes, of course, that is not true. When we navigate the
ocean, or when we predict an eclipse, we often find it convenient to
assume that the earth goes round the sun and that the stars are millions
upon millions of kilometres away. But what of it? Do you suppose it is
beyond us to produce a dual system of astronomy? The stars can be near
or distant, according as we need them. Do you suppose our mathematicians
are unequal to that? Have you forgotten doublethink?'

1984 is available from Project Gutenberg Australia at:

chauncey devega said...

Young Earth foolishness. Goodness.

On beliefs honestly come by? False consciousness for black and brown conservatives is a hell of a drug. Same for anti-feminist women and anti-gay gays and lesbians. Plus, they get paid for the routine.

chauncey devega said...

Did you chime in on Orwell vs. Huxley? Thoughts?

chauncey devega said...

He would be an easy character to confront--he writes in his own book about how he benefited from the very programs conservatives and others who share his beliefs want to destroy. classic right-wing hypocrisy.

OldPolarBear said...

I didn't; it was one of those that sort of got away from me. I would say both. All the endless entertainment, sexual stimulation and consumerism, all the bread and circuses, make it like Brave New World. OTOH, the constant war and militarism, hysterical paranoia and fear of enemies everywhere constantly, the brutality of police torture and murder are straight out of 1984. As our standard of living continues to decrease, the balance may be tipped more toward the 1984-ish side.

The great dystopian fiction is usually about what is already going on; the author just exaggerates it to get the point across. I would include Handmaid's Tale as one of the great modern dystopian novels in that respect. Some of the laws that are being openly proposed and introduced by the right wing now may be things that Margaret Atwood didn't even think of when she wrote it.

Myshkin the Idiot said...

I followed the Ben Carson hashtag on facebook this morning. A lot of conservatives will not support him based on his views on guns. He supports certain gun restrictions, its funny how that causes a hang up in the conservative movement. He can talk all he wants and rile up the conservative base, but they'll never support him to make any real policy decisions, just walk and talk the line.

DanF said...

Yup. It's easy to believe in something if it increases your paycheck and advances your career. Plus it has the "feel good" benefit that comes with being morally superior to your peers. It's a superiority as false and distorted as a Fox New chyron, but it is indeed a hell of drug.

fabucat said...

Someone please tell me why US slavery wasn't about 100 times worse than the Holocaust of European Jews? Africans in America suffered every bit as European Jews did, but for about 390 years longer.

chauncey devega said...

You unintentionally answered your own question.

rikyrah said...

Carson wants to get paid. Still looking for that Fox News tv show. It's obvious to me.

Gable1111 said...

From the latest edition of Being a Tea Party Conservative Darling for Idiots:

1. Cast yourself as a victim under attack by liberals.
2. Cast liberals as simultaneously all powerful evil capable of anything, and bumbling fools capable of nothing.
3. Paint Obama as the evil anti-Christ whose only aim is to destroy America.
4. Fill your public statements with a generous dollop of nasty personal insults.
5. Call black folk the "real" racists.
6. Extra credit: be a non-white male!
7. Extra, extra credit: be black!

Carson, given his apparent mindset and insecure emotional makeup (he's jealous and hatin') may well run, to continue to feed off this attention. In which case he'll be the 2016 version of Hermain Cain, not so much because he's black, but because he'll be playing the same role: the absurd token Tom whose real purpose is to cloak these bigots racism in a veneer of decency, at least in their minds. They will NEVER let him be the nominee, but will use him to try to show they are not racist because look, we have our own black! Like Cain, Carson would eventually lower himself into the depths of absurdity, and end up being seen as nothing more than a clown. The worst part of it will be, people outside of the far right wingnutosphere, which is the majority of voters, will look at Carson and think, isn't this the famous surgeon, and then wonder, what happened to him?

This is not to say I don't think that a black person can't be a republican and still be black. I think such a person can have conservative views and be a viable candidate, and get black votes. The problem here is, what these people see as "conservatism" is not the same as what icons like Goldwater, and in some cases even Reagan adhered to. What passes for conservatism these days is really nothing more than the platforms of the Klan, John Birch Society and other such racist organizations, cloaked in code words. They think their clever use of code hides it from everyone, but they have in their midst members like Nugent and others who almost daily "say the things that others only say in private" about women and minorities, and the poor. And black people especially, but also a lot of others see through it. And this is why the GOP, with this kind of platform, will always be a regional party. They're not fooling anyone but themselves. Carson isn't a savior, he's a symptom.

kokanee said...

Hi Skilletblonde —I'm generally a fan of your posts but you basically said that anyone who criticizes Obama has ODS.

re: ODS
There are five entries in the Urban Dictionary for Obama Derangement Syndrome. There is one entry for Obama Disappointment Syndrome. There isn't an entry for either Obama Deranged Syndrome or Blind Leadership Loyalty. Blind Leadership Loyalty applies both to Bush and Obama supporters as well as Republican and Democratic supporters.

You might as well add Glen Ford to your list of those with ODS who postulated that Obama is the more effective evil.

So let's start here: What has President Obama done for POC and those living in poverty?

skilletblonde said...

I am aware of Glen Ford. I am visited his site from time to time. He wrote an anti-Obama screed in December 2007. He was invited to Ohio where I live by an audience of white progressives. He did what he was brought here to do, which was to bash President Obama. I'm not a fan of old school liberalism tactics that emerged after 1968. They have only succeeded in moving the country further to the right. To explain it all would take a bit of time. However, I promise I'll explain myself.


skilletblonde said...

It was. But we do not demand, like we should, an acknowledgement of the brutality of slavery, and its ongoing legacy of segregation and Jim Crow. There is nothing like it in human history. The mindset of those who perpetrated these crimes should be studied intensely. After all, Hitler leaned some of his ill treatment of the Jews from America.

kokanee said...

I'd love to hear your thoughts.

I'm not an Obama hater. I'm proud that we have our first black president. Obama is no better or no worse than any other Democratic candidate. The problem is the Democratic Party and really the two-party system in general.

Okay, you're up!

Benjamin Button said...

Negros are worthless. Inferior to all other races. Period

E.C.2 said...

You forgot #8. In Dr. Coonson's case, and other anti-black colored coon-servative Ruckuses and Jemima's like him, there's also #8:

8. Cast yourself as being under attack by black columnists, and/or by black commentators, and/or by black online bloggers like Professor DeVega, and/or by civil rights groups, and/or by the "angry" black press, and/or by "angry" black talk radio, and/or by black professional organizations.

fairmont66 said...

silly sambo,his uncle tom ass will NEVER be president