Friday, September 11, 2009

Is This What We've Come To?

Is This What We've Come To?

This was Reason Editor-in-Chief Matt Welch in the post-Obama health care speech column I linked to the other day:

"But know this," President Barack Obama said in one of several such satisfying passages in his health care speech last night. "I will not stand by while the special interests use the same old tactics to keep things exactly the way they are. If you misrepresent what's in the plan, we will call you out."

Salon Editor in Chief Joan Walsh could barely contain herself at this nearly Snoop Doggesque display. "'We will call you out' on lies," she Tweeted. "love it!"

And this this was the same Joan Walsh on Salon, in response to Welch's comment:

Every time I think I'm exaggerating the nature of the racial nuttiness that Obama faces, an ostensibly tolerant, smart guy like Welch does something boneheaded like this. What in God's name does Snoop Dogg have to do with Barack Obama (besides the obvious). Snoop's chorus is some variation on, "I run this town, act loud, get wild, we'll shut you down!" Oh, I get it: Obama runs Washington, and he threatened to call out people who lie about his proposals, and ... that's the same thing?

I'll summarize for the readers here who don't want to be bothered with all the linking. Welch was making a reference to a specific Snoop Dogg song, linking to the you tube video where the chorus goes something along the lines of "We will shut you down." Full of post-racial indignation on the part of the President of the United States, Joan Walsh saw fit to call out Welch as a racist, or at least, as having made a racially insensitive comment.

Having read both Reason and Welch for over a decade now, I glossed over the comment when I read the column yesterday. I'm not familiar with the Snoop Dogg video, but I am very familiar with how Welch and many other writers at Reason work pop culture imagery into their writing. And perhaps most importantly, I don't think Reason has ever taken the position that good political writing can't be funny. (In fact, I beleive Welch had a piece a few months ago asking President Obama if he planned back bring Jimmy Careter-era cardigans.)

Matt Welch doesn't my help, nor anyone else's in defending himself, but this sort of thing is just too preposterous not to take note. This was a pop culture reference, plain and simple, of the exact same sort Welch or anyone else at Reason might have made during the Bush years. The only racial aspect to any of this is what people chose to read into it.

Yet here we are, where a pop culture reference is presented as evidence of "racial nuttiness." Perhaps most ridiculous is the assertion made by Walsh and then again by many of her commenters that, despite Welch's explanation, he must have been comparing Obama with Snoop Dogg ... As if somehow, that those sorts of direct comparisons are the only way to write.

I haven't written much about this phenomenon at all, but it's hard to escape the fact that some folks on the left are actively seeking out racist straw men wherever they can find them. It's sad, but the worst part is is how accepting others can be of these narratives. A lefty journalist can play the racial card and all you need to do is read the commenters to see how many people fall into line behind that journalist. I suppose this is the state of discourse in general, where good writers can find themselves subject to vicious personal attacks based on nothing more than someone else's ignorant interpretation of a blurb, but still ... It's depressing.


Anonymous rose said...

Do you think Walsh realizes that regular people, white and black, would consider her comments insane?

Remember a few years back when some college coach jokingly explained his team's loss by saying something like "they had more black players and therefore they were quite a bit faster than us"? The guy got killed and was denounced as a racist. I was playing on a team at the time that was 80/20 black and the universal reaction was that what the coach said was hilarious (and true) and that the media reaction was so absurd that it was hard to even comprehend.

You can only conclude that Walsh really doesn't understand ordinary people, especially the folks she thinks she's defending. And when I say she doesn't understand ordinary people, it would probably be more accurate to say that she underestimates ordinary people to a really demeaning degree.

1:45 PM  

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