WAYS TO DIVIDE: Greatest method of all!


Part 4—Division through race: We liberals have a great many ways to divide the 99 percent.

When the 99 percent divide, the one percent tend to conquer. For that reason, it isn’t wise to split into tribes unless we really need to.

Alas! In emerging pseudo-liberal culture, we love to divide ourselves into tribes! Consider some recent reactions to something David Brooks said.

Last Sunday, Brooks appeared on Meet the Press. At one point, he engaged in this exchange with Chuck Todd concerning the challenge facing Obama due to Russian conduct in Ukraine:
TODD (4/20/14): There is this fear, as you know. [Obama] doesn't want this to become the rest of his presidency, you know. But in many ways, he is being tested here in some way on how he handles Ukraine.

So for instance, I'm about to hop on a plane in two days. We're going on this Asia trip. And oh, by the way, Japan has an issue with islands with China; Korea has some territorial issues. There are a lot of countries in Asia that have territorial issues with China. How is the United States, where are they going to sit when this decides to raise its head and become an issue there? So that's why this does matter globally, sort of how the White House responds to this. And they have no interest right now in doing sectoral things.

BROOKS: I mean, basically, since Yalta we’ve had an assumption that borders are basically going to be borders. And once that comes into question, if in Ukraine or in Crimea or anywhere else, then all over the world—

TODD: All bets are off.

BROOKS: All bets are off. And let's face it, Obama, whether deservedly or not, does have a—I'll say it crudely—but a manhood problem in the Middle East: Is he tough enough to stand up to somebody like Assad, somebody like Putin?

I think a lot of the rap is unfair. But certainly in the Middle East, there's an assumption he's not tough enough.
In the highlighted passage, Brooks spoke sixty words about a problem, “a rap,” Obama was said to be facing.

At two or three different junctures, Brooks made a key point. He said he didn’t necessarily agree with “the rap,” the “assumption he’s not tough enough.”

Brooks said Obama’s problem may not be deserved. He said he thinks a lot of the rap is unfair.

Meanwhile, as he described the rap against Obama, Brooks said he would put it crudely. He said Obama has “a manhood problem in the Middle East.” He said there’s an assumption on somebody’s part that Obama isn’t “tough enough to stand up to somebody like Assad [or] Putin.”

Who is making that assumption about Obama? David Gregory didn’t ask, and Brooks didn’t say.

Is anyone making that assumption? For ourselves, we have no idea—but rather plainly, Brooks was describing someone else’s assumption.

Alas! Everyone knew how We the Liberals would react to Brooks’ statement. At Salon, an R-bomb was dropped. These exciting headlines sat atop a furious piece by Paul Rosenberg:
David Brooks’ twisted “manhood”: Questioning Obama’s masculinity isn’t just racist, it’s wrong
Obama foreign policy's rooted in successful realist tradition. Questioning his manhood is rooted in white supremacy
At Salon, headlines rarely correspond to the contents of the article. Keeping that basic point in mind, this is the way Rosenberg started his analysis, which we’d have to call unfortunate:
ROSENBERG (4/22/14): This just in: New York Times columnist David Brooks and NBC’s Chuck Todd want you to know that President Obama has “a manhood problem”—or at least the appearance of one. That’s the conclusion the two white men reached on “Meet the Press” on Sunday, following comments by another white man, Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., the ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Corker warned, “I think we’re going to lose eastern Ukraine,” which would be “a geopolitical disaster,” resulting from “an era of permissiveness the U.S. has created around the world.”

But that perception doesn’t only belong to Republicans. No, it was international, Brooks claimed.
At this point, Rosenberg quoted the passage from Brooks which we highlighted above. After quoting Todd’s reply to Brooks, Rosenberg continued his analysis:

“There’s so much BS involved here, one hardly knows where to start. Because it can cloud out everything else, it’s best to hold back the black masculinity aspect, and start with foreign policy facts.”

Rosenberg saved “the black masculinity aspect” for later.

As Rosenberg started his analysis, he struggled to observe a distinction which was obvious in Brooks’ statement—Brooks was describing someone else’s view of Obama, not his own. Rosenberg even linked to Steve Benen, who had had the same problem.

But, more than anything else, Rosenberg ended up tossing his R-bombs around, just as the headline writer had done.

In Rosenberg’s view, three “white men”—Corker, Brooks and Todd—had been wallowing in an analysis which involved a “black masculinity aspect.” Before he was done, Rosenberg went through a long exegesis of the problem with what the three white men said, which seemed to be driven by “white male anxiety about black manhood.”

Or something. No sane person could hope to follow these latest ramblings at Salon.

Rosenberg’s racial approach to this exchange is typical of the new Salon. The approach is common elsewhere in the emerging pseudo-liberal world.

In our opinion, Rosenberg’s piece is amazingly dumb, in at least several ways. But it’s guaranteed to divide the 99 percent into those who can swallow this scripted approach to the three white men versus those others who can’t.

Rosenberg’s instant racial approach is common at the new Salon. It made us think of a recent post by Joan Walsh.

Bill O’Reilly had interviewed John Calipari, the University of Kentucky men’s basketball coach. In our view, O’Reilly seemed to be wildly out of touch with the world of contemporary college basketball. He painted an unflattering view of the culture of the sport, in a way which might easily reinforce a range of racial stereotypes.

In O’Reilly’s defense, his entire discussion proceeded from one of his basic frameworks, a framework which isn’t completely wrong. He kept assuming that “the coarsening of the culture” was affecting college athletes in extremely negative ways.

To us, O’Reilly’s interview was largely dumb and rather unfortunate. He seemed to think that college basketball players are being bestialized by the culture.

For what it’s worth, our own assessment of college basketball culture is quite different. It seems to us that college players have never been so disciplined and so amazingly hard-working, especially on defense.

We’re sorry, but college players bust their keisters in ways seldom seen in the past. Across the board, college players have rarely been such superb role models.

We thought O’Reilly’s interview was unfortunate. We thought Salon’s instant misquotation of Calipari was a sign of the times—times in which our college athletes are much more disciplined than our pseudo-journalists.

A day or so later, Walsh jumped into the fray, eager to call O’Reilly names and settle various scores. By now, Salon had corrected its misquotation, so she was spared the indignity of pushing that error in her own account of O’Reilly’s interview.

In our view, Walsh still overstated the extent of Calipari’s differences with O’Reilly. In our view, she mainly seemed interested in settling a pair of scores:
WALSH (4/16/14): It took me a day to catch Bill O’Reilly’s dreadful interview with University of Kentucky basketball coach John Calipari, which mainly consists of O’Reilly hectoring Calipari to tell him what it’s like to coach those people—you know, the ones raised on “hip-hop stuff.” Can we finally conclude, together, that O’Reilly no longer deserves the “presumption of innocence” when it comes to race? Can we all acknowledge that the essence of his show is racial fear-mongering? It’s been clear to me for a long time, but not to others. It ought to be now.

Poor Calipari was on the show to promote his book, “Players First: Coaching From the Inside Out,” which O’Reilly clearly didn’t read, since he set out to stigmatize the very players Calipari puts first.
Has Walsh read Calipari’s book? Of course she hasn’t! But she was settling scores with O’Reilly, who no longer deserves the “presumption of innocence when it comes to race,” and with Jonathan Chait, who had dared to criticize Walsh, saying that O’Reilly did deserve that presumption with respect to a different statement.

We don’t think much of Walsh’s current approach to such matters. We don’t think much of her heroic yelling, which follows a decade of silent ass-kissing aimed at the authority figures running the mainstream media.

We don’t know why Walsh has reinvented herself in this loud heroic manner—why she has gone from useful keister-kisser to loud racial archangel. That said, each approach has helped her advance, though we can’t say that’s why she adopted these poses.

We will say this:

Among the three million ways to split into tribes, race provides the easiest route. Walsh, who was such a quisling not long ago, is a very loud loudmouth now.

Can we tell you why we don’t think much of Walsh’s approach? It’s because she lives to trash O’Reilly, not to praise black kids.

Last weekend, by happenstance, we had the chance to sit around with some college athletes! They were in Baltimore for a two-day, dozen-school track meet at Morgan State. One of their coaches is married to our niece!

We were very impressed by those athletes. They’ll never make money from track and field. They aren’t competing in pursuit of a score.

One of them is a favorite of our 7-year-old great niece, who was along for the ride. After sitting around with that young woman and one of her teammates, it was pretty obvious why.

At one point, Calipari told O’Reilly that his athletes come from good homes. At the start of that exchange, O’Reilly is acting on his assumption that these kids today have been coarsened beyond belief:
O'REILLY (4/14/14): But do they act differently toward you [than in the past]? I mean, do they use four-letter words towards you?

CALIPARI: No, no, no, not—

O'REILLY: None of that. So you impose strict discipline on them?

CALIPARI: Oh, yes, yes. But here's what I would tell you. These kids come from good homes. You know, people will say, “Well, he doesn't have a father.” Some of the best kids I coached were raised by a grandmother who was so firm that they understood.

O'REILLY: So, you evaluate their character before you give them the scholarships.

CALIPARI: If I walk in a home and a young man disrespects his mother or grandfather, grandmother in front of me, I'm out. Because if that's the case, he respects no one. He's not going to respect me.
In our view, O’Reilly was unfortunate throughout. But we’ll promise you this:

The high jumper our great niece likes doesn’t come from an economically upper-end home. (This year, several of Calipari’s star players did.) But she does come from a very good home. Sitting and talking to her and her teammate, it would have been hard to draw some different conclusion.

The city of Baltimore is full of impressive black kids. We see them every day, in various locations and settings.

And not only that—black kids’ test scores are way up. In reading and in math, black kids all over the country are scoring much better than their parents and grandparents did.

Other data all point in good directions. But people like Walsh never stoop to the task of conveying good news to the public.

They live to call O’Reilly names. They refuse to tell the public about those rising test scores.

Joan Walsh doesn’t seem to like black kids. After years of astonishing silence, few things could be more clear.

In our view, people like Rosenberg are the bane of progressives’ existence. It feels so good to drop those bombs. It makes us liberals feel so much better than all the rest.

Walsh, who may be worse than O’Reilly, “earns” her living dogging him down. But have you ever seen Salon inform the country about the rising test scores of black kids?

We don’t mean to sound condescending here. In the end, each college athlete, each third-grader, is just him- or herself.

But citizens are constantly being told that nothing works in our public schools, especially in the cities. Walsh, who has a very high platform, refuses to challenge this.

She refuses to tell the world the good news. She’s too busy trashing O’Reilly, thus affirming her own moral greatness.

Many people would be happy and impressed if someone bothered to tell them about our black kids’ greatness. Long ago, Langston Hughes imagined such a day in a very short, famous poem.

Hughes’ poem bounced around in our heads after we talked to those college athletes. But the new Salon seems to live to divide the world, thus helping the one percent conquer.

Coming next week: Tuscaloosa

Update: We’re sure that Walsh means well, or something like that. Then too, on many occasions, we’ve seen O'Reilly get things right.

Might a little tenderness, a little praise, perhaps a bit of understanding, move us into the future?


  1. I've heard that several people have called Mr. Sommerby a closet racist, perhaps due to his vociferous defence of the defenders of a certain Mr. Cliven Bundy, among others.

    But I disagree! Misguided he may be, but Mr. Sommerby is certainly not a racist, nor is he a supporter of any racists per se! He just likes to defend people accused of racism, an accusation which is virtually never justified, especially with regard to Republicans.

    1. In his first post, the anonymous troll wrote zero words about whether Brooks "manhood problem" is racist or not.

    2. We can’t necessarily say that’s untrue.

    3. Mr. Perez:

      You never defined Brook's manhood problem. Does he have one?

    4. Troll, before I reply to you please tell me which anonymous you are. Thanks.

    5. Well, borrowing from Brooks' clumsy technique, And let's face it, Somerby, whether deservedly or not, does have a—I'll say it crudely—but a racist problem. Even while admitting that O'Reilly spewed racial stereotypes, he still defends him. In fact, in all his years of blogging, there has yet to be any allegation of racism that he found to be credible, and not one in which he doesn't viciously attack the person making the allegation.

      I think a lot of the rap is unfair. But certainly in matters of race, there's an assumption he's deeply prejudiced.

      He lives to call Joan Walsh names.

    6. The troll's reponse to whether Brooks' "manhood problem" statement was racist is as follows:

      Somerby is racist and O'reilly said something.

      It is highly likely that the race-card regarding Brooks' statement is such a weak argument that he avoids it on purpose.

    7. Anonymous @ 1:17 PM

      Couldn't have paraphrased it better mysel. Did you cut Bob's quote or did you go to the tape to verify accuracy?
      I must admit I did only the former.

      Anonymous @1:17 Jr.

    8. Mr. Perez, to put it crudely you weren't referring to Brook's statement. You were referring to his "manhood problem."
      I don't care is he is as genuinely racially sensitive as Bill O'Reilly. I want to know about his manhood.

    9. The troll again refused to state whether Brooks' statement ("manhood problem") is racist, on the basis that he allegedly doesn't care.
      Due to the absence of a counterargument to Somerby's belief that Salon played the card without good reason, we have to conclude that this Howler was a success. You may now return to your topics (i.e. that Bob sucks and O'reilly said something).

    10. So, Mr. P, we assume you stand by your allegation that Brooks has a "manhood problem."

    11. This comment has been removed by the author.

    12. "Even while admitting that O'Reilly spewed racial stereotypes, he still defends him."

      Where'd he defend him, troll?

    13. Matt, We’d describe that as wonderful nonsense—and no, we haven’t omitted some key preceding material.

  2. Another excellent observation by Bob.

    Of course, Brooks didn't mean anything by it, he was "just sayin".

  3. I am glad Al Gore's manhood problems were exposed by women writers before they were tested in the Middle East!

  4. SOMERBY: "In our view, O’Reilly seemed to be wildly out of touch with the world of contemporary college basketball. He painted an unflattering view of the culture of the sport, in a way which might easily reinforce a range of racial stereotypes."

    Which is pretty much what Walsh says. So what stunning conclusion does he reach?

    "Joan Walsh doesn’t seem to like black kids."

  5. All bets are off. And let's face it, Somerby, whether deservedly or not, does have a—I'll say it crudely—but a manhood problem with the conservative male press: Is he tough enough to stand up to somebody like Kristol, somebody like Brooks?

    I think a lot of the rap is unfair. But certainly with the conservative male pundits, there's an assumption he's not tough enough.

    1. Matt, We can’t necessarily say that’s untrue. Or something. No sane person could hope to follow these latest ramblings.

    2. Yes, you trolls are unintelligible. That's to be expected.

    3. Matt After years of astonishing silence, few things could be more clear.

  6. I got a far as this: "Who is making that assumption about Obama? David Gregory didn’t ask, and Brooks didn’t say.

    Is anyone making that assumption? For ourselves, we have no idea—but rather plainly, Brooks was describing someone else’s assumption."

    How convenient, for bobo and bob both.

    See digby, July 15, 2012:

    "I can't help but be reminded of something I like to call Cokie's Law.... It comes from the Village maxim, 'It doesn't matter if it's true or not, it's out there,' which was based upon this quote from Cokie Roberts back in 1999:
    'At this point,' said Roberts, 'it doesn't much matter whether she said it or not because it's become part of the culture. I was at the beauty parlor yesterday and this was all anyone was talking about.'"


    1. Bob should go into his own archives and read some of the stuff he did in real time about the "War on Gore" since he has forgotten how these "assumptions" easily take on a life of their own through repetition.

      There was a point in Howler History when Bob would have been all over Brooks for injecting his very own made-up "assumption" into a national news show, instead of so easily dismiss it as "someone else's."

      But then again, Somerby used to be sharp.

      Meanwhile, we have another case of "liberal" pundits pushing back against Brooks and his completely vile "assumption," and what does Somerby do? Rejoice in that the very thing he says costs Gore the election is now being done?

      Or attack the liberal pundit for pushing back?

    2. Anonymous (1:30) said nothing about whether Brooks' statement (that Obama has a "manhood problem") is racist or not. We were instead told that Bob Somerby sucks. Thus, the issue of Salonbloggers playing the race card in strange ways is untouched by those who find it very hard to defend them.

    3. Anonymous @ 1:30 said "Somerby used to be sharp.

      Boomers used to united us, give us hope.

      According to assumptions, their intellect, like their manhood assumptions, to put it crudely, suffers with the passing of time.

    4. OK, A. Perez. Since you have appointed me the official arbiter of whather Brooks' statement is racist or not, I hereby proclaim the statement as racist.

      Discussion over.

    5. 1:51 Alas! In emerging pseudo-liberal culture We can’t necessarily say that’s untrue.

    6. Is calling H.W. a "wimp" racist?

    7. Who is H.W. ?

  7. It is obvious the manhood problem with Salon's writers starts with their guilt over their white women belly dancing.

  8. Brooks criticism did not reference an anti-black stereotype. On the contrary, the common stereotype is the opposite -- that black men are strong in "manhood."

    1. Nah, Brooks vile "assumption" wasn't racist. It was merely an attack on Obama's masculinity and courage.

      Nothing wrong with that!

    2. *Is* there something inherently wrong with challenging a leader's courage?

      Also, while we're here, might there perhaps be something a bit wrong with going around calling people racists for no reason? Show your work.

    3. To answer your question, Matt, there is nothing any more inherently wrong with challenging "courage" than questioning a name calling commenter's intelligence.

    4. "Is there something inherently wrong with challenging a leader's courage?" = strawman

      "Also, ... might there be something a bit wrong with going around calling people racists for no reason?" = strawman

    5. *Is* there something inherently wrong with challenging a leader's courage?

      Nah, republican cowards have been doing it for as long as I can remember. It's how they roll.

    6. Sometimes I am wrong. Sometimes I make mistakes.

  9. FYI, if you want to judge O'Reilly's interview for yourself:


  10. Foreign leaders, especially foreign tyrants have often seen the fact that American presidents don't routinesly imprison and torture their political opponents as signs of western decadence and political weakness. I am not sure there is a solution to this problem. Other than in fact, imprisoning and torturing political opponents. I wonder if there are any Republicans out there willing to take a couple for the team in order to have a president appear stronger?

  11. What is .99 divided by 3 million? Hoo's on first?

  12. "Hughes’ poem bounced around in our heads after we talked to those college athletes."

    Yes, Bob. I am sure they all are a credit to their race.

    1. Yes, it's the "some of my grand-neice's favorite athletes are black" cover.

    2. 2:26 I am cannot be certain that he what he thought was Hughes poem was not simply loose screws bouncing about.

    3. Anon @ 2:40

      If you followed the hints BOB gave about his niece's dad you might discover she is at least as black as the President and Hispanic as well.


    4. We did mean his grand-niece.


    5. It is possible. We don't know. We just know that her dad is some sort of assistant coach on one of the many teams at Morgan State Legacy Meet last weekend.

      Was it Morgan State? We're not sure. He is fuzzy about this.

      But I do find it curious after spending a weekend around these obviously intelligent, well-behaved athletes from such good homes, that he isn't outraged by what O'Reilly said instead of being outraged that Walsh pushed back.

      One can only conclude that Somerby lives to insult Walsh.

    6. North Carolina Central.

    7. On comment boards, sometimes I just project negative feelings I have about myself onto others.

  13. You know, Bob's theme these last few days is the various ways the 99 percent is divided and conquered.

    Today, we get to the greatest of them all -- race.

    So tell me, who is Joan Walsh "dividing" by pushing back against O'Reilly's racial stereotypes?

    Who is Rosenberg dividing when he takes on Brooks for questioning on national TV the courage and manhood of the President of the United States?

    1. Walsh is dividing liberals and conservatives.

    2. If every time someone says something that you disagree with you call them "racist", then you end up categorizing a very large part of the American public is a way that makes organizing a defense against the 1% (who are the real problem) impossible. It is OK to disagree, but remember that you want to be able to work together with the people you disagree with. (Note carefully that I didn't insult you or imply that you are an inferior human being.)

  14. "The city of Baltimore is full of impressive black kids. We see them every day, in various locations and settings."

    Gee Bob. You sound so surprised. And condescending at the same time.

    Hey, venture around town some more, and you might run into a few impressive Latino kids, too. Who wudda thunk it?

  15. And the moral of this story: Race-baiting is a surefire way to generate clicks to a blog.

  16. Not going to read the previous 49 comments, but just wanted to point out that, at least in the transcript I saw, "the coarsening of the culture" — the phrase you quote Bill O'Reilly as saying — isn't an actual quote. Sadly, he was even more incoherent than that, saying that "the coaching has coarsened, you teach at the University of Kentucky it's coarsened." I don't know what that means. And I'm sure you're right about Walsh's coverage. "Divide and conquer" surely does benefit the conquerors. But in general, is it fair to praise Calipari's sticking up for his kids in the face of such incoherent sputtering? I think so. There's no need to throw around sensitive words, but Calipari's coolness in the face of weird insinuations about rape and drugs struck me as an example for how others could act. An example even for Walsh, perhaps? http://www.spin.com/articles/john-calipari-bill-oreilly-hip-hop-stuff-video/

    1. BZZZZZ! Wrong!

      O'Reilly clearly says the "culture has coarsened" then in the same breath brings out rap and hip hop.

      There is a link provided above.

  17. Sheesh

    NOBODY says "put n-words on (I have even heard "leaky" added) boats back to Africa" anymore. The elephant in the living room is the white nationalist spectrum - the White South (= the GOP) , the conservative think tanks, talk radio etc. that want the traditional power of white males to be preserved and cozies up to the likes of Ted Nugent, this rancher guy, sundry white secessionists et al.

    They try to maintain deniability, but its the "indignation gap" gives them away every time (what was the harshest thing any Republican said about Nugent calling the president a "subhuman mongrel"?)

    Blogger is on a monstrous tear of "both sides do it" - pouring vitriol on liberals while only characterizing Hannity as "playing the fool" on the rancher thing.

    1. And how was O'Reilly's interview with Calipari "unfortunate?" Makes it sound like maybe O'Reilly was just unlucky. Poor Lil' Darlin' Bill.

  18. "Then too, on many occasions, we’ve seen O'Reilly get things right."

    Was the long, recurring and ultimately successful series on "Tiller the Baby Killer" one of those occasions? If not, might it, in a sane world without a broken culture, be considered horrendous enough to override the entire collection of "occasions" and bring a career to a permanent end? The answer is probably not, because O'Reilly's main foil on that series was none other than the execrable Joan Walsh -- being tribal, of course.

    1. I thoroughly enjoyed Somerby's recent six part post on how Bill O' "Almost Got Someboy Killed."

    2. We are hearing here that MSNBC is heading in the direction of Fox News. What would be an example of Rachel Maddow doing something remotely close to what O'Reilly did?

    3. If Rachel Maddow did do something remotely close to what Bill O'Reilly did, would you defend her? Isn't she then just "pushing back" against the other tribe? Does it matter if she is wrong or right, as long as she scores points for the team?

  19. It's even sadder when you realize calling Bill O'Reilly names does absolutely nothing to him. It's clear he doesn't believe half the opinions he shouts at people. It's all an act.