Fellow citizen watch: Don't ask, don't try to find out!

THURSDAY, MAY 26, 2016

Bruni's avoiding Trump voters:
Should the term "redskins" be regarded as an insult, a slur?

We wouldn't use the term ourselves. That said, the Washington Post recently conducted a survey of 504 Native Americans, seeking their views concerning the use of the term.

Many people found the survey's results surprising. This is the way the Post began its lengthy front-page report:
COX (5/20/16): Nine in 10 Native Americans say they are not offended by the Washington Redskins name, according to a new Washington Post poll that shows how few ordinary Indians have been persuaded by a national movement to change the football team's moniker.

The survey of 504 people across every state and the District reveals that the minds of Native Americans have remained unchanged since a 2004 poll by the Annenberg Public Policy Center found the exact same result...

Among the Native Americans reached over a five-month period ending in April, more than 7 in 10 said they did not feel the word "Redskin" was disrespectful to Indians. An even higher number—8 in 10—said they would not be offended if a non-native called them that name.
Many people found those results surprising. The Washington Post and the New York Times have each responded in a sensible way.

They've gone out to speak to more Native Americans. They're inquiring further about the way these questions are viewed.

In theory, it makes sense to talk to people if you want to know what they think about something. It seems obvious that this is the way a major news org should work.

That's why we were surprised by yesterday's column by the New York Times' Frank Bruni.

Might you have family or friends who are planning to vote for Donald J. Trump? "Don't ask them why and try not to know," the high-ranking Timesman advised:
BRUNI (5/25/16): I have many relatives who loyally vote Republican, regardless of their excitement about the particular nominee. There’s a definite chance that some of them back Trump. So I steer clear of talk about this election, though we’ve spoken plenty—and placidly—about every other election.

One of these relatives routinely pushes back at any Trump-negative columns I write, and I’ve convinced myself that he’s just baiting me and playing devil’s advocate. I’ve never said to him, point blank, “Are you actually voting for Trump?” And I won’t. It’s my goal to get to and through Election Day without learning the truth.
Just this once, let's be fair. Bruni is discussing his relatives here. Presumably, many people avoid discussions of politics and elections for the sake of family comity.

That said, it's odd to see a major journalist praising the goal of "getting through Election Day without learning the truth." Bruni's paper is trying to learn what Native Americans think about some significant topics. Meanwhile, he praises the goal of avoiding knowledge about the outlooks and views of Trump voters.

As he continues, Bruni stresses the fact that this is not his normal approach. We see the outlines of a societal problem here:
BRUNI (continuing directly): There are various measures of the chilling singularity of Trump’s candidacy, including the last two Republican presidents’ announcement that they won’t be attending their party’s convention, all the prominent G.O.P. donors who have publicly rejected Trump and the stubborn drumbeat among some Republicans for a third-party challenger, if only as a means to assure Hillary Clinton’s victory. These are extraordinary developments. We mustn’t forget that.

But another gauge of this freaky interlude is the number of us who are steadfastly avoiding conversations we’d normally have. We pride ourselves on not letting political arguments disrupt personal relationships. We have friends across the ideological spectrum. We esteem leaders from both parties. We value a healthy give-and-take.

But we can’t fit Trump into that. He’s a disagreement too far,
an enthusiasm too bizarre. So we’re treading lightly and maneuvering around him. We’re Trumping on eggshells.
Now he's avoiding discussions with friends! Bruni has every right to adopt this approach, of course. But it's a strange approach for a journalist—or for a spirited citizen.

More and more, the liberal world is adopting simple-minded, insulting approaches to those who dare to be Other. We don't ask them what they think. Instead, we tell them they're bigots.

This is deeply unimaginative. We'll guess that it makes lousy politics.

Why do (some) Native Americans hold the views which emerged from that survey? We don't know. We'd like to hear what people have to say.

Why are people supporting Trump? "Don't ask, don't try to find out," one major scribe seems to say.

It's a strange approach from a journalist, perhaps worse from a mere human.


  1. In "Custer Died For Your Sins," Vine Deloria frequently used the term "redskin," without any indication of offense at the term. The world's leading authority says that he was a "Standing Rock Sioux."

  2. The term is inherently offensive whether or not individuals find it offensive. I could see how Native American culture might lead some to not want to admit they are bothered by insensitive things their conquerors do.

  3. But there are some topics that become rancorous when discussed with people you radically differ with. Politics is one of them. If you have relatives whose company you enjoy but who you differ with radically on politics, it can be painful and really quite horrible to get into these discussions. People avoid these topics just to be able to have pleasant relationships and conversations. Otherwise time spent together is poisoned. That seems pretty simple to understand. It's not like you would avoid every single political conversation; you might not avoid such a conversation with a stranger or a co-worker. But relatives are different, usually.

  4. There are people whose hypocrisy is just another feature of their all too human behavior. Others, like Trump and Somerby, take it a step too far, and thus the lengths their supporters go to defend them seems inexplicable

    Somerby, who quickly focused his blogging career on the harm he saw done to Al Gore through distortion of his words, never backs away from doing exactly the same to anyone he feels wronged his friend from early manhood days.

    Thus this post. Somerby tells us what Bruni "seems" to say by distorting what he did say, using every technique the blogger engages his limited talent in regularly decrying.

    Why this head turning hypocrisy from people like Trump and Somerby? Surely their motivation differs. But pockets of loyalty from their supporters in defense of it are just as unsettling, because they’ll reflect a despair and bafflement beyond words.

    1. Hypocrisy? Get a mirror. -cough- snobs -cough-

    2. @ 10:57 is, in Bobworld, the perfect match for the Trump fan among today's electorate.