OTHERIZATION AND US: Described as "the rat smart thing to do!"


In the summer of 67, undisguised Otherization: Back in August 2019, Dawn Biehler helped the world remember an undisguised, deeply stupid incident from The Summer of 67.

Personally, we've always recalled the incident. It happened in July of that year. We were entering our junior year of college. We were 19 years old at the time—19 and a half.

Young and naive as we were at the time, we recall being shocked by what we saw several congressmen say, right there on the floor of the House, during a thoughtful debate. The dismaying remarks of these congressmen were widely discussed in real time. 

We're fairly sure that we saw footage of their conduct on the evening news. That said, did such footage, from inside the House, even exist at that time, long before C-Span and cable TV itself? 

We aren't entirely sure. But we do remember how shocked we were by the things the congressmen said.

In August 2019, Professor Biehler (UMBC) recalled the incident in this essay for the Baltimore Sun. As best we can tell, she seems to have made some factual errors, but she captured the essence of this dismaying, deeply stupid, highly instructive incident:

BIEHLER (8/5/19): In the summer of 1967, President Lyndon Johnson asked Congress for $40 million to support rat control in communities engaged with his Model Cities program. Model Cities and the Rat Extermination Act were part of Johnson’s agenda to invest in black neighborhoods long deprived of resources for housing, infrastructure and economic development by segregationist policies.

Black leaders like Whitney Young and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. urged a multi-billion dollar program of urban redevelopment, but Congress even refused many of Johnson’s more modest requests. The Rat Extermination Act was one small example of this: When it came up for debate, Congressmen from rural districts laughed it off the floor. Rep. James Broyhill of North Carolina drawled, “the rat smart thing to do is to vote down this civil rats bill, rat now.”

Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! Oh boy, that was good!

At the time, we were shocked by this conduct. The incident has always stuck in our mind, especially the wonderfully comical part about the way defeating the bill was "the rat smart thing to do."

Today, experts describe this incident as an LAO—as a classic instance of Loathing and Otherization. According to scholars, Otherization has always been practiced by the various groups comprising our flawed "human race."

On that unfortunate day in 1967, some House members stood to say that children getting bitten by rats was no laughing matter. That said, the joking went on and on and on. As the Congressional Record makes clear, it went on at considerable length.

Just for the record, Professor Biehler seems to have misstated some facts. In a certain type of way, these apparent errors may also be a bit instructive. The apparent errors are these:

Based upon the (official) Congressional Record—and based upon earlier published accounts of this incident—it was Rep. Joel Broyhill (R-Virginia), not his distant cousin Rep. James Broyhill (R-North Carolina), who delivered the wonderful puns Biehler recalled in her essay.

(Based upon the aforementioned sources, we see no sign that Rep. James Broyhill was involved in this gong-show at all.)

Nor is it clear that Rep. Broyhill referred to "this civil rats bill" in the course of his undisguised mockery. Prior to Biehler's essay, that doesn't seem to be the way Broyhill's remarks had been recorded, including in the Congressional Record itself. 

Four years after the 1967 incident, former president Lyndon Johnson recalled this incident as part of a very long essay he published in the New York Times. Johnson referred to this instance of undisguised Otherization as "a day of shame and defeat." That said, he quoted Broyhill as shown:

FORMER PRESIDENT JOHNSON (10/19/71): July 20, 1967, was another day when conservatives mounted an attack, this time a day of shame and defeat. On that day a simple, uncomplicated bill came before the House of Representatives which proposed to provide Federal grants to local neighborhoods for developing and carrying out rat control and extermination efforts. I had recommended this important project in my message that year on urban and rural poverty, and I had deliberately separated it from the rest of my program in the hope of making more fortunate American people aware of the terrible problem of rats in our urban ghettos.

Everything seemed in order for quick and easy passage of the bill. But something happened in the House that afternoon, something shameful and sad. A handful of Republicans joined together not merely to defeat the bill but to try to make low comedy of the entire program. Congressman Joel Broyhill, a Republican from Virginia, helped set the tone: “Mr. Speaker, I think the ‘rat smart thing’ for us to do is to vote down this rat bill rat now.”

The floodgates opened. The House, as it is prone to do on occasion, had a field day—laughing about high commissioners of rats, hordes of rat bureaucrats and enormous demands for rat patronage; jesting about the new civil “rats” bill, “throwing money down a rathole,” and “discriminating between city and country rats.” At the end of this burlesque the rat bill was defeated by a vote of 207 to 176. The old Republican‐conservative Democratic coalition had won again.

The Congressional Record doesn't show Broyhill—and yes, that seems to have been Joel Broyhill—referring to "this civil rats bill" in the mocking statement which triggered this "burlesque." It's possible that he actually did, but his remarks weren't recorded that way in the official record, and we haven't found an instance in which his remarks were transcribed that way until Biehler did so in her essay.

(We haven't been able to find video of this sad event.)

At any rate, we've always remembered being shocked by what Broyhill said that day, and by the way other House members joined in the mockery and the good solid group fun.  

Members seemed to be showing outright contempt for one part of what Dr. King would have called the beloved community—and the undisguised stupidification went on at considerable length.

We recall being deeply surprised by what we saw that day (or that night, on the evening news). According to the congressional record, this was the fuller text of Broyhill's initial jest:

BROYHILL of Virginia. Mr.  Speaker, the gentleman made a very clear statement on how this rat bill discriminates against a lot of rats in this country. The committee report also shows that the bill discriminates against 97% percent of the rats. 

But I think the most profound statement the gentleman made is the fact that it does set up a new bureau and sets up possibly a commissioner on rats or an administrator of rats and a bunch of new bureaucrats on rats. There is no question but that there will be a great demand for a lot of rat patronage. I think by the time we get through taking care of all of the bureaucrats in this new rat bureau along with the waste and empire building, none of the $40 million will be left to take care of the 2% percent of the rats who were supposed to be covered in the bill. 

Mr. Speaker, I think the "rat smart thing" for us to do is to vote down this rat bill "rat now." 

That's exactly the way the speech was transcribed by the Congressional Record. Through his intonation, Broyhill may have made a further play on the twinned words "bureaucrats and rats," but we can't be sure about that.

As the Congressional Record shows, the jesting went on at substantial length. The aptly named Rep. Gross (R-Iowa) offered witty distinctions between "two-legged rats" and rats "of the four-legged variety" on his way to such probing queries as this:

Mr. GROSS. On the matter of rat bites, it would be interesting to know how many children are bitten by squirrels that they feed and try to handle. On the basis of that, does anyone suggest a program to exterminate squirrels? 

A bit later, Rep. Grover (R-New York) announced the record of animal bites recorded in his suburban district on Long Island. This two-legged public servant had done his background work:

Mr. GROVER. Mr. Speaker, I have requested information on annual bites from the health department in Nassau County, N.Y., a part of which county I represent. 

The following bites are documented and I list them for the interest of the opponents and proponents of the legislation before us.

Dogs: 5,779 
Cats: 323 
Hamsters: 123 
Squirrels: 73 
Rabbits: 51 
Monkeys: 19 
Horses: 18 
Mice: 39 
Raccoon: 7 
Gerbils (desert rodent): 5 
Possum: 4 
Chipmunk: 4 
Guinea pig: 4 
Bear: 1 
Mole: 1 
Chinchilla: 1 
Woodchuck: 1 

There were no wild rat bites and 16 bites by experiment-test rats. 

In 1963 there was noted one llama bite.

Assuming that any of that was accurate, chinchilla bites were a bigger problem than (wild) rat bites in the Nassau County of that day. For what it's worth, Nassau County's population was less than 5% black at that time.

At any rate, wonderful humor had been offered by a skilled group of pun-loving congressmen on this particular day. President Johnson's rather modest proposal was voted down at the end of their "debate," but as he later explained in his New York Times essay, less humorous voices eventually prevailed:

FORMER PRESIDENT JOHNSON (continuing directly from above): When I heard the description of this sorry spectacle, I felt outraged and ashamed. I was ashamed of myself for not having prepared the House of Representatives and the nation to approach this issue more intelligently and with a proper sense of urgency. I tried to remedy the situation by issuing a statement immediately: “The effect of today's House action in denying a rule to the Rat Extermination Act is a cruel blow to the children of America.” I kept at it on succeeding days. The bill became a personal challenge. I was determined not to compound my error by failing to help build public sentiment.

On Sept. 20 the House reconsidered its action. With the heat of public indignation upon them, the Republicans had stopped laughing. By a 44‐vote margin the House voted to add a rat control amendment to our Partnership for Health bill.

Four years later, Johnson was still discussing "the sorry spectacle" which took place that day. We recall having been shocked by that sorry spectacle too. It had been an undisguised act of Loathing and Otherization, rather plainly directed at those regarded as Lessers.

We're puzzled by the lengthy essay Johnson wrote in the Times that day. It consumed a full page in the Times on the day on which it appeared, and the print seemed to be rather small. It ran beneath this banner headline:

By Lyndon B. Johnson: War on Poverty and the 1964 Campaign

We're not sure what the overall motivation was for this lengthy essay. But at one point, Johnson called attention, a bit tangentially, to another type of Otherization which prevails rather widely within the beloved community, or at least is perceived to do so.

In a later part of his essay, Johnson discussed his initial reluctance to run for his own term as president in 1964. As he did, he called attention to another ingrained tendency toward Loathing and Otherization which is at least perceived to exist within the national community:

FORMER PRESIDENT JOHNSON: The burden of national unity rests heaviest on one man, the President. And I did not believe, any more than I ever had, that the nation would unite indefinitely behind any Southerner. One reason the country could not rally behind a Southern President, I was convinced, was that the metropolitan press of the Eastern seaboard would never permit it. My experience in office had confirmed this reaction. I was not thinking just of the derisive articles about my style, my clothes, my manner, my accent, and my family—although I admit I received enough of that kind of treatment in my first few months as President to last a lifetime. I was also thinking of a more deep‐seated and far‐reaching attitude—a disdain for the South that seems to be woven into the fabric of Northern experience. This is a subject that deserves a more profound exploration than I can give it here—a subject that has never been sufficiently examined.

I expressed this feeling to James Reston of The New York Times in the spring of 1964. Scotty Reston disagreed with me, and a few days later he asked James Rowe to persuade me I was wrong. Jim wrote to me expressing his belief that as long as Reston and Walter Lippmann supported me, I would “get a good press” from the rest of the Washington news corps, who represent newspapers all over the country. But it was not long before those two reporters ceased to support me and began their tireless assaults on me and my Administration. When that happened, I could not help noting that it was hard to find many words of support anywhere in the Washington press corps or television media.

In the second part of that passage, Johnson conveys his impression of a highly-scripted elite press corps—a press corps in which everyone agrees to say the same things, politely following the cues of established and potent guild leaders.

More strikingly for present purposes, Johnson also refers to a "far-reaching and deep-seated disdain" directed at those who live in the South—directed at the style, clothing, manner and accent of such obvious Lessers.

Johnson said he'd already experienced so much disdain of that type that he was initially disinclined to run for president in 1964. We don't know if that's actually true—and it's too early to call Robert Caro—but we can't swear that it isn't.

Rep. Broyhill and his colleagues engaged in acts of open disdain that day—in an undisguised act of Otherization. Our liberal tribe often behaves in a similar way—and yes, this Otherization costs us votes, and harms the interests of the successors to the kids who had been receiving those rat bites.

Professor Biehler may have misquoted Rep. Broyhill in her 2019 essay (or possibly not). That said, we'll close for today with a note about Professor Biehler herself.

She specializes in the kinds of real-life problems and concerns which afflict the actual children of this nation's urban communities. For that reason, you will never see Professor Biehler on our favorite "cable news" TV shows.

She will never appear on Rachel Maddow's TV show. She'll never appear with Anderson Cooper. They and other such cable stars are too busy speaking to themselves, and to and about each other. 

They speculate about the people they dream of getting locked up. They talk about little else, and they certainly don't talk about lower-income urban children. Readers, use your heads!

If we might borrow from the later Wittgenstein, undisguised acts of Otherization are "as much a part of our natural history as walking, eating, drinking, playing." Our study of this unfortunate impulse continues tomorrow.

Tomorrow: The Lessers of Bumfuck County 


  1. Oh dear.

    It sounds like that thing really was a travesty. Why, dear Bob, should the federal government be involved in rat extermination? What's next: federal gutter cleaning grants?

    You know what they should do, dear Bob: they should, in our humble opinion, reduce federal taxes to the minimum, thus allowing state and local authorities to collect more and perform their functions. Nicht wahr, dear Bob?

    1. Mao, What would be the reduction to the minimum in your humble opinion? Eliminate the welfare state, and leave it to the states? And if some states (like those southern states back in LBJ's days had blocked civil rights laws for decades) decided not to help the impoverished kids with rats, or being fed, etc - so be it. Just trying to understand your humble opinion.

    2. As we said: let the feds perform their functions (national defense, foreign relations), and local authorities perform theirs.

      You know, like the Swiss do. What's so complicated here?

    3. You seem to be channeling Ayn Rand

    4. Mao:

      It isn't about the way anyone voted. It's about the way they behaved.

    5. Who cares how they behave, dear Bob? Their job is to pass laws; clowning is their extracurricular activity.

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  3. It would have been better if Somerby had spent some time explaining who was being otherized in that example about rat control in urban neighborhoods. Somerby implies that it is the Southerners, but that is confusing because they are the ones mocking the needs of urban children in rat-infested buildings.

    Somerby's focus on a trivial difference between who mocked "civil rats," whether it was Broyhill or other congressmen, obscures his larger point as he goes off on a tangent attacking a professor. Further, Somerby substitutes his own judgment about who made a mistake for that of the historians and Johnson himself (contemporary with the events). But I find it hard to believe that Somerby did any research to pin down the supposed "mistake" that he says Professor Biehler made. Somerby just somehow knows that she is wrong. The mistake is trivial because all of those who voted against the act were mocking it in similar ways.

    It never seems to occur to Somerby that there might be a good reason to dislike these Southern senators who were mocking urban needs and conflating rats with rights using their Southern accent, as if this were a huge joke. And beneath those jokes was an unstated (even by Somerby) racial attitude against the black children most likely to live in such rat-infested tenements.

    It isn't the poor Southerners who were being otherized or mocked, but the black children who Johnson was trying to help with his War on Poverty. And the implacable opposition to helping the poor, especially by these Southerners, provides plenty of explanation for the dislike of them by those trying to achieve change, without resorting to a vague prejudice against Southerners.

    Johnson was a highly talented politician. His attempt to gain sympathy from the media by putting them on notice that he was aware of their dislike, was a preemptive attempt to gain more favorable coverage. The eventual criticism had little to do with being from Texas and a lot to do with opposition to the Vietnam war (which Somerby omits).

    Shame on Somerby for trying to conflate the otherization of racial minorities with the rightful scolding of Southerners using their accent to taunt both Democrats and those they were trying to help. There is nothing funny about this shameful incident. And there is no excuse for trying to hide behind a supposed prejudice against the South after being called out for shameful behavior.

    1. Lily (your name for the day apparently), you completely (as usual) misconstrue TDH's post. The otherized are the children being bitten by rats, the otherizers, the pols who laughed at their plight.

    2. Not for Somerby. He considers the otherized to be the Southerners and the otherizers to be liberals. The pols are bigots and the children being bitten are simply black and white poor children who live in substandard housing.

      I don't make fun of your name. Why are you making fun of mine?

    3. Somerby, my friend, "projection" shall be your epitaph. Just who exactly is "dumb" here?

      Please provide evidence that people vote for Republicans due to supposed contempt from liberals. If anything, they are motivated by their contempt for liberals.

  4. Bob,
    Your wasting your time trying to get me to be nice to fascists. It isn't going to happen, no matter how many essays you write begging me to do so.

  5. Rachel Maddow is going on hiatus. Of course this professor is unlikely to appear on her show. And why would her study of Lyndon Johnson vs the rats be current events today?

    Notice how the right keeps claiming victim status! It isn't kids bitten by rats who are the victims, it is the Southerners who derailed attempts to help them who are the real victims.

    Fox News plays this game nightly. It isn't black women who have lacked representation on the supreme court, but all those more highly qualified white men who aren't even being considered -- they are the real victims. It isn't the kids who won't find Maus in their libraries who are victims of censorship, no, it is the parents who are being deprived of their so-called right to dictate how to teach who are the real victims. And so it goes...

    The South didn't secede and then fire on Northern troops to start the Civil War. No, it was a war of Northern aggression and the South was the real victim. And it is all those white men carrying AR-15 who are the real victims, since immigrants coming to the US for economic opportunity or asylum from persecution are actually just trying to REPLACE the legitimate white occupiers of the US.

    And Trump is surely the victim of a huge plot to remove him as president, a position he rightfully should get to keep as long as he wants it, regardless of election results. Trump is the biggest victim of them all because look at how the government itself is now out to get him! And Somerby agrees as he says no one should be locked up.

    When there is so much truth to the negative stereotypes about the South, it is hard to know which is the chicken and which the egg. I think it would be fair to call the South self-impressed and elitist, given its pretensions in the face of evidence of its backwardness. But all you have to do is look at a covid map to see why this is more than just "otherization" and why those Southern others need to clean up their act if they want to demand respect.

    Al Gore lost because he was a poor campaigner who refused to run on Bill Clinton's excellent record of accomplishment, sent Tipper out to censor rock and roll, and couldn't communicate well with the electorate. He lost because he appointed Joe Lieberman as his VP. The media is always against Democratic candidates. Effective candidates deal with it. He didn't lose because he was from the South. He lost because he was a humorless stiff-necked self-righteous jerk who couldn't make himself seem likeable beside George Bush (who lied and ran as a centrist).

    But the real oddness here is that Somerby, who came from Boston and went to high school in California, seems to have become an honorary Southerner, complete with a chip on his shoulder about how the South has been treated historically. That is ludicrous, but it isn't unusual for the converted to be more religious than those born to the faith. I find myself wondering if Somerby doesn't have his own confederate flag hung on his living room wall. He seems to have adopted every other quality, especially the negatives ones such as racism and sexism, exemplified by those Southern good ole' boys.

  6. "She specializes in the kinds of real-life problems and concerns which afflict the actual children of this nation's urban communities. For that reason, you will never see Professor Biehler on our favorite "cable news" TV shows."

    Poverty is not a current event. A march against poverty would be a current event and would be covered by news media. A new law to address poverty would be a current event. A person speaking out against conditions of poverty would be a current event. Poverty itself is not an event but an ongoing condition.

    Professor Biehler might be brought on Maddow's (or another news host's) show to provide background. Unless Professor Biehler goes on a hunger strike to end poverty, or runs for office on an anti-poverty platform, she is not newsworthy.

    Somerby's misunderstanding of how journalism works is striking in someone who was a teacher and a Harvard graduate. That's why I believe this mistake, which he makes over and over, is actually motivated obtuseness. It gives him a manufactured excuse to complain about Maddow, even when she has done nothing whatsoever to deserve complaint.

    But this is also a distortion of truth, a form of deception, because he is using this as evidence that Maddow doesn't care about child poverty, or by extension that our media doesn't care about it either. News reporters do not exist to show caring about anything. Their values are to report truth, as closely as they can, avoid bias and resist influence, to serve the need for information in a democracy. To the extent that they "care" about child poverty, they introduce a bias into their work and shift from being journalists to activists. It is up to the rest of us to care about child poverty, including politicians. That's why it is so shocking to hear those so-called politicians mocking the needs of poor children that way.

    When a politician mocks the needs of constituents anywhere, it makes us feel anxiety about whether they will similarly neglect the needs of those in their own districts or states. Someone who can laugh at kids bitten by rats is someone who has no empathy and may laugh at us and our needs should we need help. It is like our caretakers abandoning us, as we watch them abandon needy others. At least, it feels that way if you empathize with those others. If you are safe in the knowledge that you will never be black enough to be bitten by a rat, then you may think the jokes are hilarious. I personally find it difficult to empathize with the callousness shown by these politicians, Southern or not. Somerby has no problem seeing himself in them, given that he considers them to be the real victims.

  7. Lilly 11:38am, I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone counter a complaint about a dearth of news coverage on poverty, by saying that this is because a poverty is not a “current event”.

    Journalism is a field comprised of different focuses. There is such as analysis of issues of national and international importance. Some of these problems aren't the sexy thing of the day, but they are still newsworthy topics.

    It’s doesn’t make a lot of sense to berate Somerby because he’s not blogging on your bugaboo of the day, and then argue that he can’t relevantly criticize the professional media for their performance.

    1. I have never berated Somerby for not blogging on my "bugaboo" of the day. He can't criticize Maddow for not having every professor on her show.

      Here is what bugaboo means: "an object of fear or alarm; a bugbear"

      Another definition says: "an imaginary object of fear" or "something that causes fear or distress out of proportion to its importance"

      So, your use of the word to diminish the importance of the things I might consider to be important, is noted.

      This is the kind of language that Somerby might consider "otherization" (of me and those who share my concerns) if he weren't preoccupied with how Southerners are being unfairly maligned.

    2. And reporters can take a bold stand agin’ crime, poverty, rats, and psoriasis without compromising the tenets of their profession.

    3. Only if they have a news-related hook. Otherwise, such a bold stand is called an editorial (which means someone is expressing opinion, not reporting facts).

      These distinctions are important but Somerby regularly conflates them, pretending that someone who has written an editorial is a reporter or part of the media.

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    5. Yes, no unbiased jouno would ever take a stand against rats, psoriasis, poverty, or voter ID laws.

      Well...three outta four ain't bad.

    6. We don't have a Voter ID program currently, because Republicans refuse to pay for a program where the government finds and provides a free Voter ID to each and every eligible voter.

      "Election integrity" isn't bigotry and white grievance, so Republicans don't "really" care enough about it, to pay for it.

  8. You’re last sentence belied the sincerity of your argument and illustrated the definition of bugaboo.

    1. Nice try, but you still sound stupid.

    2. Try spelling "You're" correctly. It should be "Your".

      Your sentence otherwise is fine, but there is no reason to think there was a lack of sincerity involved, so you are just lobbing grenades without first picking a target. And that's kind of dumb.

    3. I’m just glad that *I didn’t say “poverty is not a current event.”

    4. Lily, there is eternally a “news related hook” concerning the great ills of this age and of every age.

    5. Here is a table showing things considered current events for debate purposes:


      current event definition: "important political or social events that are happening in the world now"

      event definition: "a thing that happens, especially one of importance"

      Notice the word NOW in te definition of current events. Poverty is not a thing that happens. It is not time limited but ongoing, open-ended, especially when the word is applied to a group of people and not a single individual. Poverty is always with us, it is a condition of being, an ongoing state of lacking resources, not an event.

      Words have meanings. It is hard to think clearly without knowing those meanings, including the nuances of usage. You get this by reading a lot and discussing things with other people to get feedback on your thinking. Of course, conservatives may get so used to redefining words to suit their own purposes that they may not care what they mean anymore. Your carelessness with words might be part of why you are having trouble communicating well here.

    6. Yes, a child being bitten by a rat is an event. The poverty that gave a rat access to a child is a circumstance, an ongoing condition that resulted in that current event.

      Your contention that poverty is a topic that a journalist can write about is incorrect. A journalist would need some way to focus an article. Poverty is too broad a subject. Further, there is nothing informative about telling readers that there exist poor people. It would be news to tell them that the number of poor people has gone up or down, or that poverty prevents access to higher education, but just talking about poverty is not something journalists do. Sociologists, philosophers, historians do that. Not journalists, unless they are describing the War on Poverty or the passage of an anti-poverty measure.

      I'm done trying to educate you when you clearly don't want to understand -- but are only here to score imaginary points. And that is the stupidest part of all. What do you think you gain by annoying liberals on a liberal blog by saying stupid conservative nonsense? All while Somerby claims that we should be nice to The Others (which in your case is us)? And you claim that Somerby is brilliant and yet you won't follow his admonishments!

    7. Anonymouse 12:42pm, words do have meanings. That’s why you’re scrambling to limit their applications.

      You’ve woven a specious argument that would render the entire field of journalism hostage to whatever grabbed someone’s attention that day. All under the aegis of objectivity.

      You’re wrong and you’re silly.

    8. "render the entire field of journalism hostage to whatever grabbed someone’s attention that day"

      This is exactly how the news works. Somerby himself has complained about it.

    9. No, Anonymouse 1:04pm, the field of journalism is not a one-trick-pony.

    10. And now you demonstrate that you have no idea what a "one-trick pony" is.

      Definition: "a person or thing with only one special feature, talent, or area of expertise"

      That has nothing whatsoever to do with news reporters writing about current events instead of ongoing conditions, such as poverty.

      Current events concern a wide variety of experiences. Anything can happen to produce a news event. A building can collapse, a sex scandal can involve a public figure, driver's may have to follow new traffic laws, there may be a shortage of milk in stores, the Middle East may be in crisis, and of course, covid. How is that being a one-trick pony? I suppose the person assigned to write wedding announcements is a one-trick journalist, but not those with more experience and better assignments.

    11. No, news agencies don’t have to wait for someone to freeze to death on the sidewalk in order to cover poverty.

      The field of journalism is not limited to stories that get headlines on a newspaper front page or what leads or bleeds on CBS News.

      Societal issues, such as the fact of poverty, are impetuses in themselves. They are always news and analysis worthy no matter how much they bore tv news hosts.

    12. anon 12:49, 1:04, 1:38 - applying the same 'logic' that you do about poverty, it would follow that "racism" is another topic that journalists shouldn't touch, given that it will always be with us (esp. given the expanded definition now applied to the term)

    13. Reporters don't discuss racism as a topic. They discuss racist events, such as synagogues being attacked by gunmen or schools being forbidden to teach black history (and this IS Black History Month) or idiot statements about race by politicians. You will not see a report on racism in a newspaper or on cable news. It will be about anti-racist efforts to change racist systems, or something that has happened that is relevant to racism.

      The people who study and write about racism tend to be in academia. The people who write about changing racism tend to be activists. Such people may appear on cable news or be quoted by journalists to provide context and background in stories about events.

      Why is this distinction so hard for you guys to understand? If you look at some newspapers, it should be easy to see what I am talking about.

    14. It's a hard distinction to understand because you're relegating such important topics and expertise as being beholden upon a particular event of the day.

      Why this obvious deflection?

      In order to counter a blogger's complaint by saying these topics aren't news in their own stead.

    15. If it isn't bigotry and white grievance, Republicans don't "really" care about it.

    16. anon 5:14, I don't know where you've been but there is constant reference to "systemic racism" "white fragility" "white supremacy" "white privilege" etc. in the media, not limited to reporting specific examples of "racism" or alleged racism, in 'liberal' media, e.g. NYT, Boston Globe, New Yorker, mainstream network news, etc. Reporters could report specific instances of poverty (they do that also). But I don't think the distinction you make is valid - it's more heavy fingers on the scale as opposed to objectivity.

  9. "At any rate, wonderful humor had been offered by a skilled group of pun-loving congressmen on this particular day."

    Then later he quotes Johnson saying:

    "On Sept. 20 the House reconsidered its action. With the heat of public indignation upon them, the Republicans had stopped laughing. By a 44‐vote margin the House voted to add a rat control amendment to our Partnership for Health bill."

    I can understand how Somerby, himself a standup comic, might admire puns and humor, but is it really wonderful fun when the needs of children are being mocked?

    Somerby asserted that Saget was very funny, even though he was funning about rape and incest. It takes a lack of empathy to find such things funny, just as those rat bites were certainly not funny to the parents or the kids affected by them, or anyone capable of feeling along with them.

    A public uprising that put those Southerners and Republicans to shame and changed their votes would be unlikely to succeed today, when they are not even ashamed of Trump and his antics, or their own toadying and fear of being primaried. Yet we are supposed to worry about the otherization of people who place themselves beyond the pale through their own actions! I don't think so.

    1. Lily, Johnson was president at an interesting time and you could make a point that Johnson was lying to himself as to why the media was on his case.

      You chose to accuse Somerby of laughing right along with Johnson’s critics.

      That’s just stupid.

    2. Cecelia, this is the part that Somerby said:

      "At any rate, wonderful humor had been offered by a skilled group of pun-loving congressmen on this particular day."

      Somerby said this, not me.

      Also, Johnson understood fully why the media was on his case. The part about being Southern was to give them a way to save face while cutting him some slack. He was too astute to think his critics were attacking him because he was from Texas.

      Somerby is stupid when he suggests that today's Southerners are being attacked out of prejudice and not for their actions. I have no idea whether Somerby is sincere but I know that he is wrong about why the actions of idiotic Southerners are being called out. It is because of their idiocy, not their accents.

    3. Lily, go back and read the blog again.

      You’re arguing that Somerby is clapping for the disdain shown by Republicans to Johnson over his bill and simultaneously using Johnson as an example for his point about elite bias toward Southerners.

      Somerby related how Johnson described himself as going to war after this happen and taking it to the people by making public statements on the issue every day.

    4. I ought to know what I was arguing.

      Somerby applauded the humor. He said earlier that he was shocked by the callousness of the congressmen who didn't pass the bill, but he admired the puns.

      And yes, Somerby clearly used an excerpt from Johnson's editorial to make his own claim that people are biased against Southerners (he says they are otherized). He has said this before in other essays.

      Johnson blamed himself for the failure of the Act because he said he hadn't laid the groundwork for its passage. And it was passed, after public outcry. That isn't the part I was referring to. It is the part that I quoted, about Johnson blaming the press for being biased against Southerners. Somerby ALSO talked about that part and related it to the otherization of East Bumfuck. You are skipping the part that I quoted, explicitly, so that you would know what I was referring to. And then you accuse me of not reading carefully!

    5. How did I skip the part about otherizing Southerners when I specifically said that an argument could made against Johnson’s claim of being distrusted because of his origins because of what was going on in the country at the time.

      Does Viet Nam not come to mind?

    6. You are a waste of time. I have better things to do this afternoon.

    7. "That’s just stupid."

      Well, what are you going to do, elect it President to own the liberals?

    8. Lily - anon a/k/a Corby seems to make the majority of posts here, under various assumed 'nyms' and as anon - which in some sense is comforting, to the extent that there aren't multiple posters is astronomically stupid as her.

    9. Calling someone else stupid doesn't make you any smarter AC/MA.

    10. He’s far and away smarter than you, but I don’t think you’re Corby.

      You’re one of two other screechy chick anons.

      Corby is as pedantic as all anonymices, but she isn’t screechy.

    11. Lily/Corby makes salient points, the peanut gallery - Cecelia/ACMA et al - do not like that, goes against their right wing values, but yet they just attack with nonsense and with the most misplaced patronizing tone, and they never defend their, admittedly empty, values. It'd be amusing if their cohort weren't currently in the midst of destroying our democracy for a mere feeling of superiority. Odd bunch, right wingers.

    12. "Odd bunch, right wingers."
      No kidding. I notice they rave about how much they love the United States, then they fly the flag of treason every chance they can when they get together.

    13. anon 7:09, for your info, I am, and have been for decades, a registered Democrat, have never voted for a GOP presidential (or other office) candidate, and I find Trump nauseating and the whole MAGA thing a dismal phenomenon. I get the same sickening feeling reading FoxNews.com, and most of the commentators there as I do from reading some of the trolls here with their absurd attacks on TDH (not that there isn't room for valid criticism of him).

  10. Here is some more of that wonderful Southern humor:

    "President Joe Biden went after Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS) after racist comments alleging that a Black female justice couldn’t possibly be qualified to be on the Supreme Court, the Washington Post cited.

    “The irony is that the Supreme Court is at the very same time hearing cases about this sort of affirmative racial discrimination while adding someone who is the beneficiary of this sort of quota,” said Wicker, who represents a state with a strong Black population in his state. “The majority of the court may be saying writ large that it’s unconstitutional. We’ll see how that irony works out, will probably not get a single Republican vote.”

    Biden’s decision to nominate a Black female justice has triggered Republicans, and many have responded with the presumption that such a nominee couldn’t have the experience necessary. "

    Will there be a public uproar over this joke too? Probably not, if Somerby is any gauge. He skipped right over this current example of Southern wit to find an example where he could knock a professor AND Lyndon B. Johnson in the same essay! But he forgot to tie the rats back to Maus as any decent comedian would have done. Oh well, we all get old.

  11. Anonymouse 12:28pm, I don’t see a joke, I see a statement made by Sen. Wicker.

    Where is Wicker’s “joke” and where did Somerby knock President. Johnson or a professor whose views he feels are significant enough to appear on Maddow.

    Your reading comprehension is probably limited, but your statements here are willful misrepresentations.

    1. The joke part is his allusion to a black female nominee as an affirmative action hire and the irony that the court is even now considering and may overturn affirmative action. Wicker called it irony, but he thinks it is funny that affirmative action is even affecting the high court itself, in his words.

      This is what passes for wit among Southern conservatives.

      And Cecelia, he spent a couple of paragraphs describing the professor's mistakes about who actually made the reference to "civil rats".

      Somerby says:

      "Just for the record, Professor Biehler seems to have misstated some facts. In a certain type of way, these apparent errors may also be a bit instructive. The apparent errors are these:"

      Where exactly did I say that Somerby knocked Johnson?

    2. It’s not a joke. Wicker is saying that this is AA policy which is an issue that may soon come before the court. .

      You can wage a salient argument against Wicker’s formulation all day long, but he was not joking.

      It is not an assault on anyone to say that although you don’t agree with everything someone says, you still think their thoughts are so valuable that they SHOULD be aired on national television


    3. You think he wasn't joking and that's your opinion. Perhaps you don't have a sense of humor.

      Wicker uses the word "irony" twice to refer to the nomination of a black woman while the court is considering affirmative action.

      Here is the definition of irony:

      "the expression of one's meaning by using language that normally signifies the opposite, typically for humorous or emphatic effect"

      Note the word humorous. That refers to joking, comedy, wit, funny word play.

      Here is the tip-off that Wicker was attempting humor. He says at the end of his remark that not one single Republican would vote to confirm a black woman. That heightens the irony, it is the part that is a joke, since no one is going to give an affirmative boost to such a nominee from his side of the aisle.

      Too bad Somerby didn't actually say what you did about Prof Biehler.

    4. So if someone said that it was ironic that Tom died from drowning because of his lifelong fear of the water, they’re making a funny?

      You want go ahead and look up the definition of “emphatic” as in “…or emphatic effect”?

    5. For Somerby to say that Biehler specializes in real world problems and so will never grace our current news shows, he is saying that what she does is important, but will be ignored.

      You know it was just a non-news… non-event…essay she did for a…(wait for it)…national newspaper.

    6. You have chosen an alternate meaning of the word irony that doesn't fit what Wicker was describing. Lots of people use the word incorrectly:

      Full Definition of irony
      1a: the use of words to express something other than and especially the opposite of the literal meaning
      b: a usually humorous or sardonic literary style or form characterized by irony
      c: an ironic expression or utterance
      2a(1): incongruity between the actual result of a sequence of events and the normal or expected result
      (2): an event or result marked by such incongruity
      b: incongruity between a situation developed in a drama and the accompanying words or actions that is understood by the audience but not by the characters in the play
      — called also dramatic irony

      3: a pretense of ignorance and of willingness to learn from another assumed in order to make the other's false conceptions conspicuous by adroit questioning

      He wasn't emphasizing anything. He was suggesting an incongruity between considering the topic of affirmative action while a black nominee to the court was under consideration. That is not incongruent to anyone who doesn't consider a black woman less qualified (more in need of affirmative action).

      I could say it is ironic to see such bigotry in a statement about addressing bigotry via affirmative action. But when Wicker says that she isn't going to get a single Republican vote, the true irony is apparent, since he is supposed to be serving his black constituents too and is nowhere near doing his legislative duty of giving due consideration to a nominee.

      But Wicker himself uses the word irony twice. That means that he considers there to be something humorous due to incongruence, and the source of that incongruence doesn't reflect well on him. The bottom line is that he is saying that such a nominee doesn't belong, is incongruent and thus ironic given the context of discussing affirmative action.

      I don't find him funny, but he finds himself clever for noticing the situation, one that should raise no eyebrows among non-bigots.

      You go ahead and defend him all you want, Cecelia. You just reveal things about yourself when you do that.

    7. "You know it was just a non-news… non-event…essay she did for a…(wait for it)…national newspaper."

      You idiot, the event was the rat humor used by the Republicans to ridicule an anti-poverty act. She wasn't discussing poverty. She was discussing how Republicans responded to a bill.

    8. So Pres. Johnson was concerned about the rat problem in rich neighborhoods.and the congressmen were chiding him over his concern for people who can afford exterminators?

      This wasn’t about poverty and poor neighborhoods and how it has been addressed politically, it was about a couple of guys making quips.


    9. It’s a “defense” of Wicker for me to have said that you can make a salient argument AGAINST Wicker’s implication all day long, BUT you’re wrong in thinking that he was quipping/trying to be humorous, rather than emphasizing an ironic potential conundrum within the court.

      No one found Wicker’s statement funny, Anonymouse 2:22pm, it wasn’t meant to be. He wasn’t joking. He thinks he has made a relevant point as to the legality and ethicality of Biden’s plan.

    10. In that case, his use of the word "irony" was inappropriate.

      Did he tell you all this about what he meant? Is Cecelia the new Wicker whisperer?

    11. You must consider Shakespeare to have been a forerunner to Monty Python.

    12. And Hitler a forerunner to Reagan.

  12. This is a real Maddow sized backward glance for Bob.

  13. Nothing wrong with that per say, we should note many Northerners are just the other way, and find it hard to be critical of the South in any way. One recalls Buster a Keaton on his masterpiece “The General” claiming the hero had to be a southerner. The nobility of the Confederacy is a rather cruel myth, but for the most part we have played along.

  14. As for juvenile humor, who dreamed that one day the Republicans would have a dunce President making kindergarten cracks every day?

  15. In past posts, Bob said that liberals today otherize conservatives. Thus, today's post implies that today's liberals are comparable to arrant racists in the past.

    1. Yes, which strongly suggests to me that Somerby is himself no liberal.

      Please note that just because Somerby says something, that doesn't make him correct. I see a lot of big differences between today's liberals and arrant racists in the past and I find Somerby's comparison ridiculous.

    2. The point Somerby is making is about bias and the result of bias. Bias as an impediment to political success.

    3. I can't wait until cops start shooting unarmed white people willy-nilly, just so David will be correct about something in this lifetime.

      Just kidding. David being correct about something in this lifetime, will be only the icing on the cake.

    4. @4:56 - A recent study showed that cops now are more likely to shoot unarmed whites than unarmed blacks.

    5. David,
      Would like to see the link to confirm. If true, we need to thank BLM.

    6. "...cops now are more likely to shoot unarmed whites than unarmed blacks."

      Seems "De-fund the police" worked wonders as a slogan.

  16. Is that why you guys impeached President Clinton and shit all over President Obama who campaigned saying there is no blue or red America?

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