Chris Matthews first segment on Hardball yesterday was a useful discussion about the issue of racism in political activism. The clip does not appear on his website, but in the segment he and his two guests do not fling accusations at individuals, but rather discuss what is happening, its import and what should be done about it. I thought it was useful because this ugly issue does need to be discussed.
He started with a clip of Jimmy Carter describing a political sign and a couple of slogans and saying that it was an inescapable conclusion that the basis of them was that Obama is an African-American. I agreed with his conclusion completely. Matthews then asked how we should deal with that issue, but did not specify who he meant by “we.”
One guest made what I thought was an excellent point; that the leadership of both parties has been botching the issue. Republicans are not distancing themselves from those who engage in this kind of rhetoric, and they should be doing so saying words to the effect of, “Those people do not speak for our party and we abhor what they say.” Democratic leadership, led by the White House, is trying to pretend that it does not exist, and they cannot deal with the issue by avoiding it. Their position is that they would rather be speaking about passage of a health care bill, and if they engage it will distract from that. Admittedly this may be a case where they cannot win, but I think they should still stand on principle.
Nancy Pelosi, and I am not normally a fan of hers, has spoken out rather eloquently, and her emotion was rather moving. She’s been there. She has shown some real leadership, and I hope the rest of the Democratic “leadership” will follow her example.
Barney Frank, who has an IQ in three digits the first digit of which may be higher than 1, is part of a discussion worth listening to in this YouTube clip.
What was absent from the discussion was the role played by the media, and my accusation would be that their role is to widen the fringe.
During sporting events, television has a policy not to show people who run out onto the field, whether clothed or not. The reason for this policy is that showing these people gives them the publicity they seek and encourages others to emulate them.
Yet television shows and endlessly repeats showing these protesters with their signs and tee shirts with hate slogans and characitures. They don’t show the people who are there demonstrating in a more normal, albeit angry and energetic, manner; their cameras are drawn to the dramatic and photogenic. In so doing I suspect they do two things; they overemphasize the degree of the fringe and, more perniciously, they normalize that type of display. People see those signs and slogans and it becomes “okay” to display such sentiment, especially when the media provides this coverage as “the opposition,” or as half of their “balanced coverage.”
Thus the fringe is enlarged by attention from the media. They make and carry those signs to get attention, and when the media gives them the attention they seek others come on board. I believe the media should treat them as they do those who intrude on the sporting fields; deny them the attention they seek.
Cover and discuss the issue, but do so with anonymity, and describe it not as opposition but as what it is, “hate speech.”