Sunday, April 13, 2014

Jonathan Chait Versus the Melissa Harris-Perry Show: An Intellectual Rope-A-Dope? Who do You Think Won?

Who do you think won the debate/discussion between Jonathan Chait and Melissa Harris-Perry?

I call it as a split decision. Chait won on style (his interlocutor never got her bearings fully back after the opening counter punch). Perry won on substance.

We now have some closure on Jonathan Chait's feud with Ta-Nehisi Coates and then "blow off" match essay on race in the Age of Obama.

Chait appeared on Melissa Harris-Perry's MSNBC show this morning. Chait is a trickster: he authored an essay which says everything--however incorrect and inaccurate The Color of His Presidency's "analysis" and conclusions--that he in fact believes while then positioning said author to deny, obfuscate, and double talk his claims on national television.

Returning to my framework and suggestion that politics is professional wrestling, Chait's interview on Perry's show was a masterful performance and run. He played the heel and then acted like the hurt and offended party on Perry's TV show. Great villains are typified by a sense of their own persecution and grievance by and towards an unjust world. Jonathan Chait channeled that energy perfectly. I applaud the routine.

For my taste, Perry was too nice and polite. I was hoping that she would simply ask him about the "terrifying" power held by those who are truth-tellers about white supremacy over those poor, aggrieved, white conservatives.

Her opening promo was an interesting choice as Chait's words are his own undoing, and thus expose his facile thinking. Why not simply pick out a few of the most bizarre claims from his essay The Color of His Presidency and let him fall all over himself defending them?

Moreover, she was pulling her punches by avoiding the "boring" social science stuff and could have easily stated that Chait is using the research literature to support his claims in a very superficial way. To point, one of the repeated findings about white racial attitudes and conservative ideology is precisely how anti-black affect and symbolic racism influences positions on seemingly "race neutral" policy matters.

White supremacy is not an opinion, it is a fact. White supremacy also influences how white folks process empirical reality. Chait's false equivalency game is one more data point in support of the latter claim.


wawoo said...

Chait reminded me of a skilled boxer that cannot initiate an offense on their own but can weakly counterpunch and deftly slip punches and holds. He agrees that history accounts for much of the present reality of race identity and inherent white privilege but that is not the whole story or the most important aspect of the current reality. Both cannot be true.

chauncey devega said...

Great analysis. He is a slippery one. Melissa could have destroyed him had to play the good host.

rikyrah said...

The problem with Chait is that his fucking article was ridiculous from beginning to end, and discounted race from a Black person's perspective.

Racism is not cocktail chatter for Black people. It' s not something that we discuss over martinis. It's something we live with every fucking day, one way or another. It's slights, both big and small.

How the fuck do you write an article about race during the Obama age, and NOT bring up the Birth Certificate?

how is that possible?

the utter and complete and fundamental lack of respect shown this President and his entire family.

pretending that Black people lived on Mars for the previous 43 White Presidents, instead of in America, and we don't notice the difference in the baseline of respect for the Presidency of the United States since Barack Obama won in 2008.

the Republican party is the party of White Supremacy and racial
resentment. It's who they are. It's all they are. And, to try and cover that is why Chait's ass has been lit up.

Miles_Ellison said...

"Dope" is the right word to stop on when it comes to Chait and this debate. The whole concept of white victimization by black racial "terrorists" is absurd on its face. The level of discourse has reached a new level of stupidity.

Black Sci-Fi said...

I stopped listening after Chait's opening statement which only served to:

1) prove that he is unaware of Bill O'Riley, Fox News or even CBS' 60 Minutes penchant for "ambush journalism"

2) prove that MPH is still reeling from her "ROMMNEY apology" from a few weeks ago. Note to MHP: they will never accept you as Rachel's peer...OK? So, leave a mark before you're cancelled.

FTS, I'm tired of black liberals in positions of power and influence begging when they should be charging. And, in so far as the Coates quote, it should only be applied when the debaters are standing on the hallowed ground of mutual respect. Any discussion of the Obama presidency should start an end with Con. Wilson at the SOTU speech wherin he called the POTUS a LIAR, period. Under those circumstances I have to fall back on the old saying: "Glad it wans't me, cause I'd be in jail". Because, I would have jumped off the podium and started kickin' his ass on national TV..., so to speak. IHMO, Obama missed a golden opportunity to prove to these racists, once and for all, that we aren't going to take any shit from Johnny Reb. If he had done that his poll numbers would have suffered for a few days but:
1) that birther trash would have gone bye-bye.
2) the Michelle = Monkey trash would never have gotten any traction for fear of a midnight Secret Service visit and a 1-way ticket to Cuba.
3) most of all, Putin's Obama = monkey nonsense would have been never published for fear of an H-Bomb enema courtesy of the USAF.
Jus Sayin'...!!!

It's a shame MHP didn't understand that you don't start a fight that you can't end with a win. In this case a point by point rejection of Chait's false equivalencies needed to be trashed by the simple question of: "If you're right, who wins and what does that victory mean for the real lives of minorities?" This topic isn't one for which there is a win-win solution. Chait is trying to desensitize liberals to the plight of minorities by making false equivalencies backed by sham science. Clearly,he bought into the Bell Curve too.

I'm embarrassed for MHP for allowing this charade of equal greivence, to go unchecked, refuted and destroyed. Perhaps this wasn't a forum wherein the gloves could truly come off. Maybe she should stick to lesser topics rather than face another TKO by a racist in liberal clothing. And, while we're on the subject, exactly WHO said Chait was a liberal in the first place? Oh yeah, the MSM, a truly reliable source. Note to MHP: Don't be on my side..!!

rikyrah said...

With you all the way.

chauncey devega said...

Melissa is cool folks, has been nice and supportive of me, and very smart. Now, that having been said. i think she was being to kind a host because she knows the unique position she is in as a black woman w. her credentials on MSNBC. I would have just read him several paragraphs from his own piece. I would have asked him if based on his last paragraph if he is looking forward to not having a black president because all those "problems" w. race will be gone and no more horrible stress for him and other "good white folks".

She went at him hard but couldn't finish him off. Too bad. His umbrage at being lectured by a black woman was pretty damn clear too. I don't even know if he realized it.

chauncey devega said...

And guess what? If you tell the truth on that matter you are being the rude and impolitic one.

Black Sci-Fi said...

One more thing, I saw her show with Coates last week and I must say he was tragically under used. If I hadn't already read his rebuttal of Chiat I would have thought him to be lost in the backwash of the meta high speed conversation that is a trademark of the MHP show. Perhaps her producers should have fewer guests and longer segments. Why bother having Coates on the show if he doesn't get to comment.

Myshkin the Idiot said...

I thought MHP did a great job, especially in the opening and considering her position in national news. Like Black Sci-Fi, I noticed when Chait came on and said, "I've never had someone begin a debate a full five minutes before they invite their opponent on" and the look of indignation on his face was petty and disgusting.

Someone said this about your typical troll, you call them out and they move the goal post way back which is exactly what Chait did, "Oh, I meant this, I was only talking about that, it's not my position to comment on that, I don't know why you read that from my piece"

Myshkin the Idiot said...

I thought the same thing about Brittney Cooper on Chris Hayes' show. Hayes cut her off basically and ranted for a few minutes, I don't think he ever really came back to her.

joe manning said...

MHP won on debating points while simultaneously denying Chaits the bully pulpit and keeping him on the defensive. I suspect she refrained from confronting his knee jerk victimology and false equivalency because she values her job, Keith Obermann and Martin Bashir were fired for less. She did a damn good job.

Black Sci-Fi said...

It's a shame when our leading journalists get the "back of the bus" treatment on "liberal" cable shows. Cooper could get more air time on Meet the Press. If Hayes wasn't best buds with Rachel, MHP would have gotten that Prime Time slot.
If Huffpost features a Black Voices section, is the front page White Voices? Spare me the "Seperate but Equal" treatment. If it's newsworthy print it on the front page. And spare me the Murdoch-esque TIT-ulation on the right hand side.
Since being called out, Joan Walsh (Salon) is on a "calling out the racists" roll. THANKS, JOAN ..!!

Black Sci-Fi said...

With all due respect, Chauncey, MHP has a college day job and credentials to work anywhere. I respect her overall effort, but her sidestepping this opportunity for clarity is not acceptable.
We all seem to agree that, in this unique instance, the "extreme claims" of Chait required her to ask him for "extreme proof".
"Playing the good host" to the detriment of topic clarity is not good journalism, or even good TV.

OldPolarBear said...

His umbrage at being lectured by a black woman was pretty damn clear too

YES this. He was seething at that and it just came screaming out of the picture. He came off in that opening statement like a butt-hurt whiny baby at being berated when she was doing no such thing. Because of that, if I had to say who "won," it would be her.

Besides that, pretty much what you said. I don't see MHP's program that much because our basic cable doesn't get MSNBC.

drspittle said...

I think the media are "gaslighting" us - causing lights to flicker then telling us we're crazy because we see flickering lights. It's very sick, twisted and sinister. As Rikyrah said below, the methodical, deliberate strategy of employing racism to obtain power to oppress others is not just fodder for cocktail chatter or an empty intellectual exercise. One of the many problems I have with "liberals" is their need to feel that they are "being fair" and "keeping an open mind" even in the face of outright racism, misogyny or contempt towards the poor. Their need to feel intellectually superior feeds the gaslighting.