It's time for the news media to take on the racists

Anti-Racism Kensington 33

Image by thivierr via Flickr

When is the mainstream American media going to call out the GOP for what it is: an increasingly fringe party that’s let itself be captured by a radical movement, racist at its core?

Over the top, you say?  Consider this:

A new Harris poll, the Daily Beast reports, “reveals Republican attitudes about (President) Obama: Two-thirds think he’s a socialist, 57 percent a Muslim—and 24 percent say ‘he may be the Antichrist.'”

Sounds pretty wacko to me. Then why do so many in the media insist on characterizing The Tea Party Movement, from which many in this Antichrist crowd undoubtedly are drawn,  as a grass roots populist movement of disenfranchised Americans, fighting back against big government?

Behind this benevolent stereotype lies a movement that at its core coddles holdovers from the blue-collar Bubba bandwagon of white racists who backed former Alabama Gov. George Wallace a half century ago.  Its core peeked out last year in  the so-called “birther” movement, which by trying to deny that Barack Obama was born in the United States lightly veiled its racist message.  Next came the “death panels” playing on fears that this black man in the White House would practice social engineering to further his cause (let’s not forget all those posters comparing Obama to Adolph Hitler, a truly comical comparison given Hitler’s extreme racism against all those not of Aryan descent).

On Saturday in Washington, the movement’s racism and homophobia boiled over, as Tea Party members taunted civil rights legend John Lewis with repeated shouts of “nigger,” spat at one of his African-American colleagues and yelled “faggot” at openly gay Rep. Barney Frank.

The mainstream media dutifully covered the story, but that’s about it. Republican representatives cleared their throats. Some even disassociated themselves from the remarks. But have they taken the Tea Party to task?  Hell know.

Instead  they were making comments like these after and during the health care debate. Rep. Marsha Blackburn, Republican of Tennessee, The New York Times reported, “proclaimed … ‘Freedom dies a little bit today.”’  Meanwhile, Texas Republican Rep. Randy Neugebauer yelled “baby killer” at Rep. Bart Stupak, a pro-life Democrat who was speaking at the time to explain his decision to support the bill.  (Neugebauer later insisted that his words were an attack on the legislation and not Stupak, but, according to The Washington Post, stood by them.)

As Allison Kilkenny notes in a terrific True/Slant essay at her blog Unreported, the seeds of the kind of overt racism being seen outside this “debate” have, in fact,  been exploited by the Republican Party itself for decades.

The strategy of praying on the ignorance of white people is really nothing new… the “enemies” are the same: the left, the anti-war protesters, hippies, feminists, and blacks, with the relatively new additions of Hispanics and .. gay(s).

Here is Nixon’s political strategist, Kevin Phillips, explaining the strategy to the New York Times in 1970. But really, with the antiquated term “Negro” swapped out for something less glaringly racist, this is almost identical to the Republican strategy today.

“From now on, the Republicans are never going to get more than 10 to 20 percent of the Negro vote and they don’t need any more than that… but Republicans would be shortsighted if they weakened enforcement of the Voting Rights Act. The more Negroes who register as Democrats in the South, the sooner the Negrophobe whites will quit the Democrats and become Republicans. That’s where the votes are. Without that prodding from the blacks, the whites will backslide into their old comfortable arrangement with the local Democrats.”

Right. Make the white ignoramuses fear The Black Man, and they’ll come running to the Republicans. Blame the blacks, or the gays, or the immigrants for their lost jobs (instead of greedy corporations that get cheaper labor overseas,) and they’ll cross party lines that much faster.

The GOP’s strategy is exactly the same, but the bigotry is worse now because the wealth disparity has widened and America has its first black president.

Except this is 2010, decades and generations later, and at least part of this country — including most of white America — has moved well past the political climate of segregation and discrimination that spawned the Civil Rights Movement. If we, including the news media, want to hold the gains this country has made, it is time to speak out — clearly, forcefully and frequently — to shed light on what’s really going on in today’s GOP and the Tea Party behind it.

In the year 2010, equivocation about overt racism and homophobia by a major political party has no place. Muted coverage in the major media should not stand unnoticed. If this country is to move forward, it has to start doing so by denouncing those intent on moving it  backward. And if the media considers that to be “unfair and unbalanced” then they are part of the problem.  It’s time for a lot more examination of the Tea Party movement and its roots in news columns and a lot more reflection on its dangers in editorial columns, loudly and unrelentingly.


About jerrylanson

I teach, write, coach and sing, though you're not required to listen to the latter. I'm a journalism professor at Emerson College in Boston. My third book, "Writing for Others, Writing for Ourselves," was published in November by Rowman & Littlefield Publishing. You can read a sample chapter at My passions are politics (generally liberal in outlook), music, mountains, golden retrievers and my grandchildren, though not in that order. Please stop by and mix it up with me. I always answer those who post.
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4 Responses to It's time for the news media to take on the racists

  1. libtree09 says:

    The playbook is yellow with age and frayed and held together with duct tape. The Negroes have moved on to be leaders in every aspect of our culture, they are in the boardroom and no one mistakes them for waiters at the country club or the congressional dining room and today a hard headed Irishman gushed over our negro president to the applause of the room. Our children may ask what a negro is or why it matters.

    Yet there they are the white haired, pink faced grumpy old men and sour faced women buying the ole’ white christian screed, being led by confused and defeated men who can’t quite understand what the hell has happened, can’t come to grips with a more perfect union. So it’s the old tried and true, the northern barbarians are at the gates of Tara, it’s the bars and stripes, its commies and darkies coming for your children, for your jobs, poisoning everything that is pure and right and white. It’s the last gasp of a dying and diseased culture.

    Good riddance…the country moves on, it is impossible to stop culture from advancing, we can only hope that the future remembers the heroes of the past who stood up and fought for the betterment of all of us.

    • Jerry Lanson says:

      I don’t believe race will ever disappear from culture nor should it. I do hope that we become a society with so many shades of the rainbow that no one finds race particularly worth remarking on or using as a form of stereotyping and categorization. That would be something special.

  2. Pingback: Organic ACORNs: The Tea Party Has Done What ACORN Never Could - Ethan Epstein - epstein's razor - True/Slant

  3. Pingback: Have you heard the one about the liberal and the elephant? - Jerry Lanson - News Prints - True/Slant

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