ROSA PARKS AT 100: Sullivan buys the whole pile of piddle!


Interlude—Gwen Ifill, utterly daft: We’ve been doing some research today on the Rosa Parks front. Starting Monday, we’ll do several more posts in our award-winning series.

But good God! Gwen Ifill was utterly fatuous in her handling of this topic this week. And Andrew Sullivan purchased the whole bloomin' package!

More specifically, Sullivan praised the ludicrous blog post Ifill prepared after her interview with Professor Jeanne Theoharis on Thursday’s NewsHour. Sullivan reprinted the part of Ifill’s post which follows, saying that Ifill had “corrected some common misconceptions about” Mrs. Parks.

Sullivan’s statement is absolute nonsense. But then, so was Ifill’s ridiculous post, which actually invented a few new pseudo-myths about Mrs. Parks.

This is what Sullivan posted:
IFILL (2/7/13): We want to believe that a timid seamstress sat down on a city bus in December, 1955 and refused to give up her seat to a white man because she was just too tired. We want to believe that she was a solitary heroine who single-handedly desegregated public transportation in Montgomery, Ala., overnight. And we want to believe that she spent the rest of her days comfortably, secure in the knowledge that her meek, nonviolent approach to injustice made all the difference…

She was not meek. She was not used. She was as fond of Malcolm X as she was of Martin Luther King Jr. Moreover, the Montgomery bus boycott did not transform America overnight. It took 382 days and hundreds of volunteers to force change, and that was years before the March on Washington. Parks and her husband Raymond lost their jobs and would not regain economic security until they moved far away, to Detroit.
That’s the passage Sully reprinted—and it is deeply inane. On the other hand, it’s a testimonial to the way our celebrity “press corps” pretends to conduct its business.

What’s wrong with Ifill’s post? Let us count the ways:

“We want to believe that a timid seamstress sat down on a city bus and refused to give up her seat because she was too tired?”

Who on earth “wants to believe” that? Ifill may want to believe some such thing, although of course she knows better. But actual journalists have been correcting that narrative at least since Howell Raines wrote My Soul Is Rested, his history of the civil rights movement, in 1977.

In 1977—thirty-six years ago! Who among us “wants to believe that?”

Ever since Raines wrote his famous book, journalists have been refuting the “tired feet” former myth. As we’ve shown you, it was endlessly refuted in 2005, at the time of Mrs. Parks' death—for example, on Ifill’s own NewsHour!

That said, why does Ifill keep advancing such claims? Plainly, because she’s a pitiful hack! More nonsense from Ifill:

“We want to believe that she...single-handedly desegregated public transportation in Montgomery, Ala., overnight?”

Good God! Who has ever believed such a thing? Absolutely no one! Incredibly, Ifill is now inventing new myths she can debunk about the world-famous Montgomery bus boycott.

Do people like Ifill ever stop? No one on earth has ever said, suggested, believed or imagined that the famous boycott succeeded “overnight.” Why does Ifill invent such nonsense?

“She was as fond of Malcolm X as she was of Martin Luther King Jr.?”

Actually, she almost surely wasn’t—although Mrs. Parks said on quite a few occasions that she admired both men. (That's also our view.)

Let’s be fair to Ifill! In making that claim, she actually scaled back a claim Theoharis makes early and often in her book, a claim she tends to make in interviews—the claim that Mrs. Parks “identified Malcolm X as her personal hero.” Next week, we’ll show you the kind of “scholarship” that lies behind Theoharis’ claims on this score—and we’ll wonder why Brooklyn College is willing to sponsor such “scholarship.”

Ifill’s interview with Theoharis was short, lazy, disrespectful, worthless. Her blog post bordered on the insane. (Overnight! All by herself!) Her work becomes that much more absurd when you realize that Ifill was one of the speakers at the high-profile Washington memorial service to Mrs. Parks at the time of her death.

Back then, she knew all about Mrs. Parks. Eight years later, she clowns.

Ifill’s interview was worthless. Her subsequent blog post was utterly daft. But that’s the way the six- and seven-figure mainstream “press corps” functions.

Andrew Sullivan swallowed it whole! That too is the way they act.


  1. Well, the answer to Bob's questions of "who" and "why" and "who is we?" would require some mind reading.

    First, we should note that a cliche corrected (with a dollop of self congrats) can often become a cliche itself. Look how sharp I am explaining that George Washington didn't say I cannot tell a lie re the cherry tree. Even if you already knew that.

    Then, to speculate, passive resistance isn't "bad ass." They have never made a movie, i don't believe, of Dr. King getting hit with a brick and then getting up and marching on. We like the bad ass FBI men of "Mississippi Burning" a lot better. Gwen Ifill probably screwed a lot of people over on her trip to TV star, you think She has much respect for passive resistance?
    She hangs with shock and awe hotties like Condi!

    White liberals love there bad asses too, and one day Quentin will probably make a movie where Rosa Parks forces George Wallace to eat his own filth, and then cuts his head off. And then Roger Ebert will write a glowing review about how someone has finally told the truth about our sordid history.

  2. And now Sullivan wants us to pay for his recycled drivel, too.

    Don't ever forget Sullivan was the one who printed Betsy McCaughey's lies about the Clinton healthcare plan in the New Republic, which helped tank the plan. He knew they were lies but ran it "as a provocation to debate." (See her Wiki page.)

  3. The answer to the question, who wants to believe these things? is lots of people who know very little about the history of the civil rights movement, especially young people. Why pick on Ifill for setting the record straight?

  4. Important Correction: Gwen Ifill is utterly fatuous.

  5. In sympathy with the fatigue here -- really, people don't know this? -- but I think Ifill can and should be read more generously (though I am no Ifill fan).

    The question, who are the "we" here? Ifill does not identify her own own voice with that "we," from which she (obviously) immediately dissociates herself. Rather, that "we" is the larger populace, no matter how many historians and others have long debunked myths about Rosa Parks for (some of) "us," a populace that gains its impressions (at best) from nightly news and from who gets national holidays (with associated thumbnail sketches presented in schools). Malcolm X is not honored with a national holiday. MLK is. Most important, the notion that Black people have rhythm (though can't read music), can jump (because they have special "natural" physical abilities), and have never had a strong working- or middle-class (they all have always lived on welfare in inner cities, right? or lounged about in shacks on what were once Alabama plantations, right?): that mythology is still very much with "WE," I think. Not as much as it used to be, but still with "US."

    I think Ifill has a point to make and, from what's quoted here, makes it well.

  6. "Andrew Sullivan swallowed it whole!"

    Pun intended, Bob?

  7. Bob is right.

    Many journos have debunked the Al Gore invented the internet meme. Surely Howell Raines did so in a book at least a couple of hundred people read.

    Therefore, there is no need to debunk it again, even though countless numbers of people still believe the meme.

    The need never to debunk the myth again should be worth half a dozen blog posts.