WHATEVER HAPPENED TO STANDARDS! Michelle Rhee has always been all about standards. Except when it came to that probe:
WEDNESDAY, MARCH 30, 2011
Professors, Klansmen and how to treat friends: Has Donald Trump’s clowning begun to subside? Pray to God for small favors!
Over the past week, Trump—a very well-known figure—has peddled all sorts of brain-dead crap about Obama’s troubling birth. He has spread all sorts of disinformation around, extending one of the dumbest episodes in our very dumb modern history.
At this point, we are a very, very dumb people. Are we’re dumb now on various sides.
Trump has behaved in inexcusable ways. But he’s been enabled, every step of the way, by major “journalists” and “liberals.”
In the process, we’ve had a chance to see the way citizens get disinformed, especially in a tribal culture. And we’ve seen the ways mainstream journalists and career liberals will protect their own—by kicking down, not up.
Trump has been most at fault in the past week’s destructive clowning. But he has had a lot of help—from Greta van Susteren; from Barbara Walters; from Whoopi Goldberg and Joy Behar. And as he has spread his disinformation around, no major figure in the high mainstream press has managed to say boo about it.
The New York Times has let it go. So has the Washington Post. By now, it is the accepted norm when big players act this way.
How do somewhat gullible people end up believing things which are false? As part of the answer, consider the way Lawrence O’Donnell and Professor Melissa Harris-Perry treated this unfolding matter on Monday evening’s Last Word.
Who’s at fault when gullible people get conned by big public figures? As O’Donnell started, he played an overt tribal card. He played tape of our old pal, Bill Maher, blaming the other tribe’s evil rubes—and saying it’s all about race.
Maher referred to a poll of likely Republican primary voters—a poll with a rather small sample (click here). Why do so many people say they don’t think Obama “was born in the United States?” In standard tribal fashion, Bill could think of only one answer:
MAHER (on tape, 3/28/11): If 51 percent think he was not born in America, I don’t know where that else is coming from except race. What more could this man do to be the perfect family man? I mean, there’s nothing about this man that is un-American, except to them his color. I’ve got to think it is coming from that place.
For the record, being born in another country doesn’t make someone “un-American.” (It does mean you’re not a “natural-born citizen.”) If Bill’s mother had given birth to him in Norway, Moldova, North Korea or France, he would of course still be an American citizen.
Fish gotta swim and birds gotta fly—and Bill “[had] to think” this was race! Deep inside the tribal mind, there could be no other answer! Indeed, tribal players always think in this manner. Everyone in The Other Tribe is presumed to be just like everyone else. These beings will then be described in the least flattering way our limbic brains can construct.
Question: Could it be that someone believes this crap because they saw Donald Trump say it—and because they saw three major liberals flounder, thrash around and flail, failing to challenge his factual statements? Because they saw the liberal Professor Heldman fail in the exact same way on Hannity, a few nights later? Because they see Trump saying all these things, and they see no big players correcting his statements? In a tribal world, no—that can’t be it! That might place some of ourmembers at fault! Continuing, O’Donnell brought on the professor to offer her own deathless thoughts on this topic. And soon, the analysts were clutching their ears, complaining of her racial cant and her “professoriatese.”
Harris-Perry started in English. Her statements made perfect sense:
HARRIS-PERRY (3/28/11): Listen, I don’t think Donald Trump is really running for president. People, you know, run for president for lots of reasons. Mostly what he’s doing here is just putting out and increasing his brand. But he is—because of these poll numbers, he’s following a tack that many of the Republicans are following, which is, rather than attack President Obama on his ideas, rather than challenge his ideas, his strategies, his policies, they challenge instead his identity.And they’re doing that precisely because of these polls that you’ve seen. They have managed to bring into being this anxiety, this fear, based solely on repetition of a lie.
Rather than tackle Obama’s ideas, Trump was challenging his identity. Rather plainly, this statement was accurate. In similar ways, public clowns like Jerry Falwell paraded around in the 1990s, challenging President Clinton’s identity. Clinton was a serial killer, they said (so was his wife)—and they would sell you a tape which proved it! And Clinton was a drug-runner too! And of course, he had gone to Moscow as a graduate student—perhaps as a Soviet spy!
Gullible people believed that crap too. They didn’t need race to help them do it, just partisan gullibility. They believed thoseattacks on identity too—and the mainstream press corps looked away, trembling, worthless and silent.
The professor was off to a pretty good start. Her opening statements made perfect sense. But just like that, she adopted Maher’s tack! Pleasing us rubes all over the land, she announced that this was all about race! It couldn’t be anything else!
HARRIS-PERRY (continuing directly): But there is no way that this can be about anything but race. And let me explain.
We were all ears! But when the professor began to explain, she slipped into her second language. What follows is almost pure bafflegab, though it’s largely delivered in the tongue known as professoriatese:
HARRIS-PERRY (continuing directly): I think when we say that, it sounds like we’re saying anybody who’s a birther is a racist, and you know probably a card-carrying member of the Klan or something. That’s not what I mean.What I mean is that, in America historically, birthright citizenship is always about race. In 1857, in the Dred Scott case, when the U.S. Supreme Court decided that Dred Scott had no rights that a white man was bound to respect, it was a decision that, though Scott had been born here in the United States, he was not a citizen under the Constitution.In 1866, after the end of the Civil War, and just before passage of the 14th Amendment, birth-right citizenship in the Civil Rights Act of 1866 establishes American citizenship based on birth-right as a response to the end of slavery. And it is ratified in the 14th amendment. It is turned into our current modern understanding of citizenship.Citizenship in this country is about race. It is about the challenge of slavery. There is no way to be having this conversation except for the fact that in his very body as a black man of descent from both Africa and midwest America, Barack Obama challenges Americans’ deeply held conception that whiteness and American-ness go hand in hand.And so walking through this is good for us, because we will get on the other side of it with a better and clearer understanding of citizenship. [editor’s note: Fat chance!]
The birthers aren’t all racists—although it’s certainly all about race! And she didn’t mean that they were all Klansmen.
After that, the bafflegab started.
Her statements said this was all about race—and this was pleasing to us rubes. But her key statements make little real sense; very little of what she said could really be paraphrased. “Birthright citizenship is always about race?” The statement is vague and therefore useful—but it isn’t clear what it has to do with the current ridiculous matter, which turns on the requirement that an American president be a “natural-born citizen.”
Question: If there had been some stupid way to pretend that Clinton had been born in France, do you think Falwell wouldn’t have trumpeted that? Because it wouldn’t have been “about race?” Because “citizenship in this country is [always] about race?”
Related question: Remember that brief window in time when we liberals would happily note that Arnold Schwarzenegger, briefly ascendant, could never run for president? (He’s a citizen, but he isn’t “natural-born.”) How did that fit into the professor’s sweeping picture?
Have you ever heard it said that ex-governor Granholm, who’s very bright, could never be picked for vice president? She was born in Canada! This too is all about race!
Harris-Perry is often quite fluent in professorial bafflegab. (In their book Higher Education?, Hacker and Dreifus mock the ways the professoriate now tends to speak in private languages. We’d say this resembles what they mean.) But in this latest offering, she quickly joined Maher in saying that this could only be about race (whatever that meant). Everyone who believes this crap believes it because of race—because “Barack Obama challenges Americans’ deeply held conception that whiteness and American-ness go hand in hand.” By some miracle, this is true for all the gullible people—the racists and non-racists alike!
This was perfect tribal politics. Everybody blamed regular people—and no one blamed the stars! More specifically: No one blamed Barbara or Whoopi or Joy! You see, Whoopi and Joy are part of our tribe. When “journalism” is really just tribal self-pleasure, no one in our own perfect tribe can ever be said to be wrong.
No one pushed up at our biggest newspapers, saying they should get off their tuffets for once and bring folk like Trump crashing down. When “journalism” is really self-pleasure, the kicking is always aimed down.
In fairness, the professor did offer an accurate lecture about the 14th amendment. But we have no real idea what it has to do with the current case. In no apparent way does the current nonsense have anything to do with “birthright citizenship.” Do youknow why she started there? We have no idea! But lord, how good it felt!
O’Donnell finished in typical fashion. Instead of noting that the previous, Republican governor of Hawaii actually vouched for Obama’s birth, he cited the current Democratic governor—a friend of Obama’s parents. This feels good within the tribe. But it’s a dumb way to argue.
But then, this is really all about entertainment and tribal self-affirmation. Serious people combatting such nonsense will kick big keister within the tribe, insisting that members do better next time. They’ll tell Whoopi and Joy to get off their asses and do their goddamned homework for once. They’ll tell Barbara Walters to quit or perform. (Though this might cost them future guest appearances.) They might even scream and yell at the New York Times, telling them to show some guts for once and denounce their famous fellow New Yorker. They might even tell the Times to name van Susteren while they’re at it. Her conduct has been a disgrace, seen by millions of voters.
But darlings, this simply isn’t done! Tip-top careers can be ruined that way! O’Donnell was simply running us rubes. He fed us race and comfort food. And lord! How good it all felt!