TALKING TO OURSELVES: Salon says Ryan is worse than he looks!

WEDNESDAY, MARCH 19, 2014

Part 3—Talk like a South Ossetian: On Monday morning, Salon’s Brian Beutler broke our hearts again.

His piece appeared beneath a set of Salonistic headlines. You can’t fully blame Beutler for this. But prepare to be scared, really scared:
Paul Ryan’s race flap even worse than it looks
The notion that Ryan was dog-whistling to racists is actually the best-case scenario. Here’s the scary alternative.
What makes those headlines Salonistic? Easy:

According to Hard Salon Tribal Law, every “flap” involving race has to be “even worse than it looks.” Also, people from the other tribe have to end up seeming “scary.”

It can’t just be that they’re wrong.

Presumably, Beutler didn’t compose those headlines. That said, we were struck by the way he started his piece:
BEUTLER (3/17/14): I spent a depressing amount of time this weekend trying to think up a scenario in which someone might say the following without being motivated, to at least some degree, by malign intent.

“We have got this tailspin of culture, in our inner cities in particular, of men not working and just generations of men not even thinking about working or learning the value and the culture of work, and so there is a real culture problem here that has to be dealt with.”

What I came up with was strained and unlikely, but troubling if true.
Lucky Beutler! It hurt so good!

Over the weekend, Beutler tried to imagine someone saying what Ryan had said without malign intent. He could barely imagine such a thing. The struggle left him depressed.

Luckily, we could imagine the scenario Beutler sought. Who could say what Ryan said without a degree of malign intent? Easy:

Someone who actually believes that “we have this tailspin of culture, in our inner cities in particular, of men not working and just generations of men not even thinking about working or learning the value and the culture of work,” such that “there is a real culture problem here that has to be dealt with.”

That isn’t our own basic view of this matter—although, for perfectly obvious reasons, there’s a lot of defeat and despair in our nation’s poverty zones, white as well as black.

The view expressed in the quoted statement isn’t our principal view of this matter. But Beutler said he couldn’t imagine how anyone could say such a thing.

Miraculously, we could! We just had to imagine a world in which everyone doesn’t see the world exactly the same way we do.

Does Ryan believe the views he expressed? We can’t answer that question, nor does that principally matter.

What principally matters are the proposals Ryan makes, proposals which typically don’t make huge sense to us. That said, Ryan’s statement on that radio show produced the standard tribal reaction.

By now, all good career pseudo-liberals know how to react to such remarks. Here are a few of the standard ways our screeching presented last week:

First step: In his comments to Hugh Hewitt, Ryan cited the work of two well-known authors—Charles Murray and Robert Putnam. Since Putnam isn’t a man of the right, he was instantly disappeared from our tribal reaction.

Second step: By rule of law, Ryan had to be thinking of Murray’s 1994 book, The Bell Curve. By rule of law, he couldn’t have been referring to Murray’s most recent book from 2012, in which Murray said the white working class is displaying that “tailspin of culture” too.

Which book did Ryan have in mind when he spoke to Hewitt? Like Beutler, we have no idea. But the words Ryan actually spoke fit the theme of the newer book, in which Murray argued that our wider society is now experiencing that “tailspin of culture,” not just blacks or the black poverty class.

For ourselves, we don’t see the problems of low-income people as a “tailspin of culture.” On the other hand, we aren’t inclined to stage hysterical tribal breakdowns every time someone says something we ourselves wouldn’t say.

We admit, it’s a great way to talk to ourselves. And indeed, at Salon, and in other quarters, the hysterical tribal reaction is now completely required. This brings us back to Jonathan Capehart’s labors this Sunday.

Yesterday, we reviewed one part of Capehart’s stint as guest-host for Melissa Harris-Perry on MSNBC. In that segment, he introduced a UCLA professor who has published a study about the way black youths are treated by police and about the way black youths are perceived by several groups.

Capehart made virtually no attempt to examine what the study claims to have found. After a cursory chat with its author, he pivoted to a four-member panel—a panel selected to produce standard reactions to the way such studies sound.

In this way, a bunch of corporate suits are creating our latest well-scripted tribe. But good lord! In his next segment, Capehart discussed what Ryan said—and one of his guests wandered briefly off message.

As the segment started in earnest, Capehart played tape of Ryan’s remarks. He then read this further statement by Ryan:

“After reading the transcript of yesterday morning’s interview, it is clear that I was inarticulate about the point I was trying to make. I was not implicating the culture of one community but of society as a whole.”

A lot of familiar clatter ensued. Some of it was perfectly sensible, some perhaps a bit less so. In one pleasing moment, we were told that Ryan is “otherizing a certain community, which feeds on that implicit bias we already have in our society.”

But uh-oh! Before long, an Obama hand from the Center for American Progress wandered into a bit of a swamp.

Her host didn’t seem to notice. To watch the full segment, click here:
MOODIE-MILLS (3/16/14): But my question would be, if Paul Ryan is so concerned about these African-American men in the inner city, how involved is he with the My Brother’s Keeper initiative that the White House just released? What is he doing with that?

CAPEHART: Yeah, a couple of weeks ago. And that’s a good question.
Uh-oh! In theory, it’s good to say that Obama is right (and morally good) while Ryan is wrong (and morally bad). But in a heroic gesture, the Schomburg Center’s Khalil Gibran Muhammad raised a slightly uncomfortable point:
MUHAMMAD (continuing directly): Well, on this point, I actually think that that program actually, if you heard the president, if you heard the interviews with Bill O`Reilly where Bill O’Reilly says we should have a culture of shame because of the breakdown of the family because that’s the number one cause, there’s this House Budget Committee report that looks at the war on poverty— There’s actually amazing convergence on the idea that there is a cultural problem. And it’s even implicit in My Brother’s Keeper.

I actually reject those ideas, because I actually do think that it is a structural problem that interacts with individuals who operate from a set of limited choices, which is to say then that we can’t entirely call what Paul Ryan said “racist” necessarily because it is in the ether, and it affects all of us in terms of the air and the ideas that we communicate.
Oops. As Muhammad noted, Obama’s program also implies the possibility of a “cultural problem” in parts of the black community. To see Ta-Nehisi Coates make this point more forcefully, just click here.

Coates’ piece appears beneath these headlines. Toto, we’re a long way from Salon's headlines now:
The Secret Lives of Inner-City Black Males
Paul Ryan's explanation for urban poverty isn't much different from Barack Obama's. Why did it make liberals so angry?
We can answer Coates’ question. Why did Ryan’s statement make (some) liberals so angry?

Simple—because it’s in the script! It’s required by Hard Tribal Law.

For ourselves, we admired Muhammad for wandering off-message. A real discussion could have ensued, but Capehart quickly changed the subject, after making a silly remark about how no one was saying that Ryan is racist.

Regarding Muhammad, we would say this: He shouldn’t feel that he has to choose between “cultural problem” and “structural problem.” (In our view, the structural problem is the primary, much greater force.)

But please note where Muhammad’s thought process led him:

According to Muhammad, we maybe shouldn’t call Ryan “racist.” According to Muhammad, many people say the types of things Ryan said.

Barack Obama talks that way, Coates observes in his piece. Bill Cosby has talked that way for years. Talk like that is quite widespread, Coates says. But at Salon, Hard Tribal Law means that you have to ignore that.

You have to say that you can’t imagine anyone talking like that. Beyond that, you have to say you can’t imagine why people from Obama down would say such things.

(Why has Cosby been saying those things? Could it be that he thinks they’re true?)

This morning, in the New York Times, we read about Russia’s move into South Ossetia in 2008. In the passage below, we thought we saw a strong human impulse described.

All over the world, people long to share true belief with a tribe. Until we learn to rein it in, we’re all inclined this way:
VARTANYAN AND BARRY (3/19/14): Separatists here had spent two decades locked in conflict with the Georgian authorities, and had little economy to speak of…Georgian forces had shelled Tskhinvali, forcing many residents to cower for days in basements, and when Russia formally recognized South Ossetia, it meant a guarantee of protection.

“Finally, finally, Russia has acknowledged that we exist, and that we have suffered,” one Ossetian militiaman exulted that day. “Ossetia thanks its defenders,” read graffiti on one building, and another read, “Shame, Georgian bootlicker!”
“Shame, Georgian bootlicker!”

All over the world, separatists long to yell such insults at The Others. They may love the outrage they feel.

They may tend towards words like “malign.” Does this impulse possibly keep us from persuading others?

Tomorrow: What’s the matter with outreach?

35 comments:

  1. TALKING TO OUR ANALYSTS: BOB says Salon is worse than black, well-dressed, extremely polite, slow rising Unctuous Underling.

    Oh, those Salonistas and their new Stalinism.

    "Luckily, we could imagine the scenario Beutler sought. Who could say what Ryan said without a degree of malign intent? Easy:

    Someone who actually believes that “we have this tailspin of culture, in our inner cities in particular."

    Someone who would write:

    "Our intellectual culture is broken. Our rotted-out values leave us just this side of insane. This breakdown is so widespread it can't be seen by many observers."

    KZ

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  2. Lookee what we posted 2 days back:

    "

    AnonymousMarch 17, 2014 at 11:31 AM

    Prediction: Bone-gnawer is going to come up with a spirited defense of Paul Ryan ("inner city culture of not working") with scathing vitriol for "librulz"

    "

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Even a blind troll sniffs a Milk Bone now and then.

      Why don't you blind trolls go back to groping elephants.

      Delete
    2. "Even a blind troll .... ZZZZZZZZZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

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    3. The defense comes from Muhammed, Ta-Nehisi and Obama, not Somerby (who states clearly that he doesn't agree with Ryan).

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    4. Well, he got the scathing vitriol part perfect. That puts him 50% ahead of Somerby on finding WMD in Iraq and antiwar types gloating.

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    5. Good call on the Ryan coverage by TDH. But I was wrong about it attracting hits and comments.

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    6. "Good call," you know, except for the actual lack of "defense of Ryan" and the actual lack of "scathing vitriol" -- But I can definitely see how one troll might tell another troll that he really hit it outta the park.

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  3. C'mon Bob. Isn't the worst thing about Paul Ryan's rants that they are aimed at racist conservative voters, when you're recent premise has been there are no racist conservatives?

    Berto

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    1. Valid wherever "Premise that there are no racist conservatives" is equal to "this case does not on its face demonstrate racism, and in fact here are quite similar statements that are commonly not taken to be racist"

      I.e. fuck off Berto you douchebag.

      Delete
    2. I.e. Follow your own advice.

      Delete
  4. TALKING TO OUR ANALYSTS: BOB says Salon is worse than black, well-dressed, extremely polite, slow rising Unctuous Underling.

    Part 2 How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Disappear the R-Bomb.

    "Obama’s program also implies the possibility of a “cultural problem” in parts of the black community. To see Ta-Nehisi Coates make this point more forcefully, just click here.

    Coates’ piece appears beneath these headlines. Toto, we’re a long way from Salon's headlines now:

    The Secret Lives of Inner-City Black Males
    Paul Ryan's explanation for urban poverty isn't much different from Barack Obama's. Why did it make liberals so angry?


    We can answer Coates’ question. Why did Ryan’s statement make (some) liberals so angry?

    Simple—because it’s in the script! It’s required by Hard Tribal Law."

    Could the analysts be the ones who told BOB to forgive Beutler for the headline he didn't write but attribute the one in the Atlantic to the un-Unctuos Mr. Coates? We don't know. We do know that headline "badly paraphrases" a question Coates didn't "principally" voice.

    "But, uh-oh." Lookee how BOB disappears the answer Mr. Coates chose to give for the question he did raise.

    "Only if black people are somehow undeserving can a just society tolerate a yawning wealth gap, a two-tiered job market, and persistent housing discrimination.....

    We are in America, where our absence of virtue is presumed, and we must eat disrespect in sight of our sons. And who can be mad in America? Racism is just the wind, here. Racism is but the rain.

    Not a mention of script. Nary a whiff of tribal law. Just a big dose of truth.

    Just not from BOB. He's got a meme to peddle. Er, push. Er, pimp.

    KZ

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  5. Bob cares about black kids again! Where's David in Cal? Where's LIONEL?

    ReplyDelete
  6. I'm black and I'm proud. Truth be told I am lazy. If I work hard, I get nothing for it, so what's the point?

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    Replies
    1. How do you know?

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    2. I'm informed by my skin tone.

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    3. My skin tone told me if I work hard I get nothing for it as well. But I am white. I'm humble. And nobody told me the truth because they're too lazy and I am indifferent.

      Delete
  7. Bob--You have to take stock: Your use of the word "tribalism" is your way of saying that there is a rough moral equivalence between Dems and Republicans. David Gregory and Joe Scarborough purport to believe this, but you know better. For all their cowardice and mediocrity, Dems are largely in favor of, e.g., not curtailing the vote of minorities, students and the elderly, raising the minimum wage, providing affordable health care to those in need, trying to stay out of war, slowing climate change, etc. The GOP is on the other side of all these issues and many more. To oppose all efforts to diminish the suffering of those in need is EVIL, Bob. I am not being tribal when I point out that the GOP is on the EVIL side of nearly all issues; I am simply stating the obvious. On her worst day, Rachel is morally superior to, say, O'Reilly on his best. It strains my credulity to think you don't know this. Regards, Stacy

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    1. I can't speak for Bob, but I don't get the sense that he is making any kind of judgment about "moral equivalence" between liberal and conservative media or politicians. I see his point as more structural (to use a word from the main post) -- that a democratic society needs a real press in order to function, and that the split into warring tribes of spin doesn't help.

      You might say that the liberal press needs to do what it's doing in order to counter the right-wing talk shows, which are very powerful and toxic. I suppose that on a practical level you might be correct, but I would guess that Bob would argue that leads down a long and ugly road. I think that he'd prefer to try to persuade people that they're being misled, in order to get them to change their opinions, rather than misleading them in what is probably a more favorable direction.

      Bottom-line, Bob wants people to have the facts, and competing corporate spin-machines don't produce facts.

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    2. Bottom-line, all the making believe there is a liberal press in this country isn't going to change anything.

      Berto

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  8. Criticism of "culture" is a well-worn racist canard. Nazis hated Jews not only because they're vile and subhuman but they represent liberalism. Welfare queens actually predate Reagan but he definitely popularized it. (Liberty Magazine used the phrase "idlers.")

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    Replies
    1. Nazis hated Jews because they represented Communism (according to Hitler & others) not "liberalism."

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    2. No, the Nazis also associated Jews with the liberalism of the Weimar Republic, by which they basically meant modernity in any form or venue -- art, expression, politics, and so on.

      Delete
    3. wow I can't believe you just referred to Jews as "vile and subhuman"...bigot much?

      Delete
  9. The way the conservatives (Tea Party, Libertarians, Republicans, etc) see the problem of inner city poverty and unemployment is that they were, and are, CAUSED by social safety net programs.

    These programs created and sustain a "deadbeat" class in America.

    Their cure is "Tough Love" ; Cut the freeloaders loose and they will HAVE to go to work, and have plenty of cops and prison beds on hand for those who won't work legally.

    OTOH, liberals believe the problem is caused by a stagnant economy, low wages, regressive taxes, poor education, and entrenched racism.

    The cure is stimulus, higher minimum wage, more progressive taxation, more money to schools, and affirmative action.

    Where the impasse lies is although both sides will ADMIT publicly that the others have a point, and that there is no CURE, but their IS considerable room for improvement, they really don't believe it.

    Instead of working out a solution we come up with all the reasons our side is 100% right and their side is100% wrong.

    When the dialogue starts, facts are ignored and every logical fallacy in the lexicon is brought to bear to "win" the argument, resulting in a stalemate.

    If facts can be ignored, so the the concept of moral equivalence, which is in itself a logical fallacy.

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    Replies
    1. Where's the tough-love for those receiving corporate welfare?
      You NEVER hear about that from conservatives. I say it's because they don't really believe their own rhetoric.

      Berto

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  10. Salon has become bizarre. I have no idea why a site that once had the magnificent Glenn Greenwald, has become is all but unreadable.

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    Replies
    1. Greenwald was never readable. Somerby has 10 X more the readability. And even more humility.

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  11. How can anyone disagree with Somerby on this. The failure of liberal media to discuss the remarkable progress of black children on standardized tests instead of yelling "racist" all the time is what, a half century after the Civil Rights Act, has failed to persuade conservative
    white Americans of the rightness of the Johnson-Clinton-Gore path.

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    1. "The failure of liberal media to discuss the remarkable progress of black children on standardized tests instead of yelling "racist" all the time is what, a half century after the Civil Rights Act, has failed to persuade conservative white Americans"

      That may be what you think, but it's certainly not what Somerby has argued.

      There undoubtedly has been a failure of mass media to recognize "the remarkable progress of black children."

      You can call that media "liberal" with or without irony, as you prefer -- it won't change the fact that the story of that progress is little recognized and that the press should bear a significant part of the blame for that.

      Somerby though has never said that this certifiable truth is what "has failed to persuade conservative white Americans" -- as if A) there were no other possible contributing factors and as if B) only "conservative white Americans" were uninformed or unconvinced of something.

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    2. I wonder if that progress is also found in victim reported assaults.

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    3. Lionel has finally got his Doctorate.

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