RED AND BLUE WITH RACE ALL OVER: Red and blue fight about black, white and Muslim!


Part 2—Murky, inane, unhelpful: Last week, before the photos emerged, no one knew who had committed the terrible Boston bombings.

Murky, unfocused, unhelpful work soon appeared from the leaders of both major tribes. Red and blue were quickly fighting about concepts like black, white and Muslim.

Let’s start with some murky, unfocused work which emerged at a red tribal site.

Newsbusters is one of the many sites maintained by the Media Research Center, a long-standing conservative press critique site. Over the years, the MRC has produced a ton of horrible work, though some of its work isn’t awful.

Last Friday, a minor blogger at Newsbusters responded to a more prominent figure at Salon. Earlier in the week, Salon’s David Sirota had written a column whose headline said this:

“Let’s hope the Boston Marathon bomber is a white American.”

It’s hard to find a paragraph in Sirota’s piece that fully makes sense. That said, his column was built around a premise which was perfectly sensible: Different repercussions might flow depending on who had committed this bombing.

According to Sirota, some racial, ethnic or religious groups are “collectively denigrated or targeted for the unlawful actions of individuals.” Other groups are not subjected to collective action when some member of the group commits a heinous crime.

For that reason, Sirota said he hoped the bomber would turn out to be “a white American.” In that case, the bomber would be pursued as an individual, with no consequences for innocent members of his group.

“It will probably be much different if the bomber ends up being a Muslim and/or a foreigner from the developing world,” Sirota gloomily predicted.

Sirota expressed his sensible notion quite poorly, as we will see tomorrow. But our modern red and blue tribes simply love to fight. Warring tribes have always felt this way, in the Caucasus and elsewhere.

Warring tribes love to fight! In that spirit, Portnoy offered a fuzzy, unintelligent response to Sirota in this, his unfortunate Newsbusters blog post.

By now, the Tsarnaev brother had been identified as the bombers. (One was already dead.) In his unfortunate tribal post, Portnoy gloated about the fact that Sirota’s wish hadn’t been granted.

Was Portnoy right in that perception? Had Sirota’s wish been denied? We’d pretty much have to say yes. The Tsarnaev brothers pretty much aren’t “white Americans” in the sense Sirota seemed to have meant, even though both brothers are “white” and even though the younger brother is an American citizen.

As noted, Sirota had worried about what might or would happen “if the bomber ends up being a Muslim and/or a foreigner from the developing world.” But uh-oh! As it turned out, the two bombers were Muslim. Beyond that, they were both foreign-born. They and their family had come to the United States from an unfortunate, war-torn region which might even be said to belong to the developing world.

In truth, the Tsarnaevs weren’t “white Americans” in the sense Sirota had seemed to have in mind. Indeed, ever since their identity surfaced, concerns have been voiced that the Tsarnaevs’ conduct might produce repercussions for Chechen-Americans or even for Muslims in general.

This is a perfectly valid concern, although, within our own blue tribe, our tribal leaders love to assume that such bad conduct will happen.

In his column from inside blue nation, Sirota dealt with a valid concern, although he expressed this concern rather poorly. Now, Portnoy played the red tribal fool in his gloating response.

Because his writing is jumbled and murky, it’s hard to tell just what Portnoy thought about several key points. But he gloated at the idea that Sirota’s wish had been denied. He also stated some bogus information.

Most strikingly, he weirdly seemed to suggest that if you’re Muslim, you can’t be white. Below, you see how dumb it can get within our modern red tribe:
PORTNOY (4/19/13): Fox News fills in some of the missing “character” details of the brothers Tsarnaev. The two came to the U.S. from Chechnya about a decade ago. They are believed to have undergone military training overseas. Tamerlan, the brother killed in the shootout, told a photographer in 2009, “I don’t have a single American friend, I don’t understand them.”

Oh, and they have been confirmed to be Muslim.

These details are at least a setback for David Sirota, a blogger at, who headlined a post earlier this week “Let’s hope the Boston Marathon bomber is a white American.” After taking much-deserved flak for his outrageous post, Sirota doubled down, crafting a second column titled that might have been titled “I’m Dreaming of a Whiter American.” Instead he opted for the more banal “I still hope the bomber is a white Americam.” After another round of well-aimed barbs, you’d think Sirota had had enough. And you’d think wrong.

Early this morning, around the time the police were shooting it out with the bombers, Sirota engaged in a shootout of his own on Twitter, attacking what he called the “white media” and defending his previous positions against the forces of “bigotry.”

So have Sirota and pals lost the battle? Not necessarily. Some on the left have already hit upon a new self-serving narrative: that the attackers were Muslim but that they were also white (shades of George Zimmerman?). Cenk Ungyur [sic], of Current TV fame, who subscribes to this view, seems to wag an affectionate finger at Sirota in a tweet of his own...
Portnoy didn’t seem to understand what Uygur (correct name) had written. He never bothered explaining why Sirota's piece was “outrageous.”

Meanwhile, were the Tsarnaev brothers “believed to have undergone military training overseas?” Someone may have believed that claim. But the younger brother hadn’t even been out of the country in recent years. And there is still no evidence that the older brother received military training when he went to Russia in 2012.

Portnoy’s work was awful. That said, the second passage we have highlighted constitutes the crowning dumbness of his unfortunate post.

By all accounts, the Tsarnaev brothers were Muslim. By normal census classifications, they were also white. But Portnoy somehow seemed to think that a person can’t be both Muslim and white. The reference to Zimmerman suggested that he thinks a person can’t be both white and Hispanic, although we’re forced to guess.

In fairness, Portnoy is a minor figure at Newsbuster. But in that passage, he helped us see the ginormous dumbness that often emerges from red nation orgs in our modern tribal wars.

But how about the work of our own blue nation in this particular skirmish? At Salon, Joan Walsh seized upon Portnoy’s post—and her work was almost as murky and unhelpful as his work had been.

Meanwhile, how about Sirota’s column itself? Tomorrow, we’ll start with that.

Alas! The red and the blue were soon talking race in the aftermath of Boston. Much work from the right was unhelpful, inane.

Some of our blue leaders weren’t hugely better. Tribal war makes humans dumb.

Tomorrow: Nut-picking, plus tribal logic


  1. I disagree with two of Bob's points.

    Sirota said he hoped the bomber would turn out to be “a white American.” In that case, the bomber would be pursued as an individual, with no consequences for innocent members of his group.

    “It will probably be much different if the bomber ends up being a Muslim and/or a foreigner from the developing world,” Sirota gloomily predicted.

    Sirota expressed his sensible notion quite poorly

    Twenty years of actual experience prove that Sirota's notion isn't sensible.

    For two decades, some Muslims, inspired by a radical militant verison of Islam, have been attacking the United States and other Western nations. The embassy bombings. The intentional crash of a Swiss Air flight. 9/11.The Cole. Washington D.C. snipers. Major Hassan. The London subway bombings. The recent Canadian attempted train attack. Bali. Etc. Despite all this mayhem, there have not been anti-Muslim riots, attacks on Mosques, etc. There have been a very tiny number of ethnically based incidents, but IIRC fewer than the number against Jews.

    Sirota (and Bob) inagine that they're worried about a real risk. The facts don't bear tham out.

    Most strikingly, [Portnoy] weirdly seemed to suggest that if you’re Muslim, you can’t be white.

    Earth to Bob: for many years now, this is how the federal government has chosen to measure bias. It's the method uniformly used by colleges, by employers, etc. BTW it some times produces weird results. My friend Mary, a Caucasian, Catholic woman from Pennsylvania got a preference as "Spanish surname" because she married an immigrant from Argentina and took his last name. Anyhow, don't blame Portnoy for referring to the actual system we live under

    Some people might not be aware of the background to Portnoy's mention of "White Hispanics". It goes back to the New York Times and others who made up that description only for George Zimmerman. Their chosen narrative had been that Zimmerman, a Caucasian, a member of the ruling class, had murdered poor, disadvantaged minority Travon Martin. Then they discovered that Zimmerman is also a minority, as defined by our government. Rather than admit their error, they created a never-before used term of "White Hispanic". That hocus pocus allowed them to maintain their narrative, even though the facts didn't support it.

    1. There certainly is in Sirota's argument an insinuation that we could rationally attribute to the white race the same dynamics of groups like the Taliban, Al Qaeda, the Muslim Brotherhood, and the oppressive nature of tolitarian Islamic states.

      While we send Navy Seals and drones across the borders of countries we are supposedly not at war with, and have troops fighting Afghanis as well as foreigners crossing Afghanistan borders, we are supposed to walk on egg shells lest we somehow insult all peaceful Muslims by giving nod to these realities, rather than pretending that the greatest threat to this country is the opposition party.

      Sirota's failure wasn't one of eloquence, it was a failure of logic.


  2. Had the Boston bombings been committed by a white male, this perp's attributes would be roundly laid at the feet of everyone from Rush Limbaugh to Charles Krauthammer to any white conservative in the country.

    The expression "angry white male" didn't come out of nowhere. You have only to have seen it applied to conservative white males via Gabby Gifford's assailant (a man who likely never saw Palin's bullseye meme on Gifford's district). This act was immediately linked to whites who were said to be angry at the election of a black man, and at the advancement of liberal woman in the public sphere.

    Had the brothers been white Christians you can bet that every motive from racism, to homophobia, to anti-govt insurgency would be instantaneously perceived as theirs and any conservative right of the late Nelson Rockefeller would be designated as being racial, religious, and philosophical kith and kin to this man/woman.

    Mr. Sirota would personally be using all the bandwidth on the Internet in waxing eloquent of murderous white privilege.

    Not only would there be pressure to mitigate talk radio via the FCC, but calls for the same via both govt and industry scrutiny of Fox News.

    To be white in opposition of gun legislation or gay marriage would be tantamount to being a danger to the state.

    White liberals who opine that there would be no racial/group opprobrium for whites had a white male perpetrated such a crime, should speak for themselves.

    1. We still have an FCC? Cool, what does it do?

    2. The "Angry White Man" (also known as Black Helicopter Guy) emerged way back in the 90's in response to Bill Clinton's oppressive policies, his jackboot murder of Randy Weaver, and his know-it-all bossy wife. Angry White Man then found comfort in an imaginary beer with a humble cowpoke from Texas they call Dubya. Now, he's back to being angry again.

      The AWM's conduct in the lead up to the Iraq invasion makes him the antithesis of victim. Upwards of a million innocent Iraqis killed in comparison to a liberal pundit or two speculating that perhaps the white guy caught on the spot might possibly have been a militant right winger? I just don't see much equivalency. Lesson: don't use gun rhetoric in a political campaign trying to come off as a badass, then whine when called an irresponsible asshole after a political opponent happens to get shot in the head.

    3. Are you including the media, a lot of Democrats (in office and voters) in you blaming of Angry White Guys for the War in Iraq, or is it just conservatives?

      What Angry White Guys are we blaming for civilian drone casualties and the Holder policy allowing us to blow up America terrorist suspects abroad?

      As for being blamed for mass murder over a target map, do you mean gun imagery like this?

  3. Anon -- It's true that they don't act for nation states, but they're not part of an ordinary crime syndicate, either. They are inspired and, to some degree, organized by a certain sect within Islam. E.g., see today's USA Today: Mosque that Boston suspects attended has radical ties

    In order to defend ourselves against terrorists like this, we need to understand the process by which they are encouraged or inspired or recruited or organized. We mustn't close our eyes to the organization and philosophy behind the terror attacks.

  4. Right, David. And Westboro Baptist Church is obviously some form of radical Christianity. So we should go bomb the Vatican. All them Christians are alike.

  5. Who is closing their eyes, DinC? You are the one ignoring the central criminal v. soldier argument.

  6. Soo, when was the last time we invaded, bombed or threatened a nation of white people after a terrorist attack committed by a white guy?

    1. One example I recall was the former Yugosloavia, where we bombed a nation of white Christians to get them to stop committing terrorist attacks against an Islamic nation.

      I don't know if you count Iraqis as "white", but we attacked and defeated Saddam's regime after he committed innumerable terrorist attacks. IMHO the Iraq war was a mistake for a number of reasons. However, I am told that most Iraqis are grateful for the huge improvement in their lives.

  7. Radical Islamic terrorists are neither criminals nor soldiers, but IMHO they're more like soldiers than criminals. Criminals generally commit crimes for financial gain. They're generally out for their own good, but not so much for the sake of harming others.

    Soldiers, like radical Islamic terrorists, act to harm the "other side", with whom they have a philosophical difference. We imprison enemy soldiers, not because of harm they did to us, things they did, but because if they were released they would do harm to us in the future. The same principle ought to apply to Islamic terrorists, although our government foolishly applies criminal law to them.

  8. Many, many criminals commit crimes for reasons other than financial gain. Is Timothy McVeigh a soldier? He probably thinks he is, but it would be a mistake for us to treat him like one, unless you just like never-ending war. It worked pretty well in "1984".

  9. Here's a relevant column from the UK Telegraph:

    Where is the mob of Muslim-hating Americans going crazy after Boston? It's a figment of liberals' imaginations

    According to federal crime stats collected by the FBI, in 2009 there were 107 anti-Muslim hate crimes; in a country of 300 million people that is a very low number. In 2010, a year of great terrorism panic following the attempt by Pakistani-American Faisal Shahzad to detonate a car bomb in Times Square in NYC, there were 160 anti-Muslim hate crimes. In 2011, there were 157. To see how imaginary the Islamophobic mob is, consider a state like Texas, fashionably mocked as a backward Hicksville full of Fox News-watching morons: there are 420,000 Muslims in Texas, yet in 2011 there were only six anti-Muslim hate crimes there. It simply isn’t true that mad racist Yanks are biting at the bit to attack Muslims.

  10. So you're equating a tenuous link to a militia as being on par with a possible connection to a terrorist network?

  11. When do you win a war with a terrorist network? When they sign an armistice?

    By the way, noone was equating anything with anything. DinC was using an incorrect definition of a criminal to defend his "treat them like soldiers" stance.

  12. It's a different world. We have to setllle with making peace with various groups, factions, etc.

    What you don't do is to argue that these soldiers must be treated as a criminal justice problem because that's what we did in 1993.

  13. What one does is argue that we should treat these criminals for what they are because it makes the world a safer, more just place in which to live.

    As criminals:
    Many, many nations working together to capture and limit their influence. Murder is always wrong.

    As soldiers:
    Add stress to international tensions, and question other nations sovereignty. Murder is just an act of warfare, protecting a nation's way of life.

  14. It needs to be on a case by case basis.

    However, I do tend to agree with you.